Fifty at-bats: Shohei Ohtani sets his spring training goal with an eye toward opening day

Fifty at-bats.

Before the start of the Dodgers’ regular season schedule next month in Korea, that’s how many spring training at-bats Shohei Ohtani has told the team he would like to take in order to prepare for the year.

“He feels if he can get 50 at-bats,” manager Dave Roberts said, “that’ll get him ready for the season.”

Ohtani confirmed as much when approached by reporters at his locker Wednesday, shortly after taking live batting practice for the second time this spring.

In Wednesday’s session, Ohtani worked a swing-less walk against reliever Daniel Hudson, then hit a ground ball to second base against left-handed swingman Ryan Yarbrough.

Between those two at-bats, and the three Ohtani took in his first live batting practice session Monday, he already has five under his belt before Cactus League games begin.

“As long as my body is feeling good and reacting the right way the next day,” he said through his interpreter, “then we should be good.”

While it remains unclear when Ohtani will make his Cactus League debut — it won’t be in the team’s spring opener Thursday against the San Diego Padres — he said that he feels like he has “more than enough time to get to 50 at-bats” this spring and that his build-up for the season is still “trending in the right direction.”

“I’m feeling good at the plate, seeing the ball well,” Ohtani added. “I feel like we’re right on schedule, which is a really good thing.”

Ohtani also noted that the at-bats he gets in live batting practice, backfield scrimmages and even against a high-tech Trajekt Arc pitching machine in the team’s new indoor hitting facility at Camelback Ranch will all count toward his goal.

“There’s not a huge difference within a game or inside,” he said. “The main thing is looking for is the timing aspect, when [I’m] late on pitches or early. How [my] body reacts, how the bat reacts, there’s not too big of a difference.”

Roberts said he didn’t have a preference for his new designated hitter, either.

“Some people would rather play in a Cactus League game because it gets their adrenaline going more. Some people feel that if you’re playing on a backfield or in a simulated [game], you can get what you put into it,” Roberts said. “I’m still learning Shohei. But there’s got to be a lot of trust on my side. If he needs more at-bats or wants to play in more games, we can acquiesce and I’m fine with it.”

Ohtani’s ultimate objective, of course, is to be ready for next month’s opening series against the Padres in Korea — a two-game set that will take place just five months after the Tommy John procedure he had to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right throwing elbow.

While the injury continues to limit Ohtani’s pitching activities, the slugger said he has experienced no discomfort in his elbow while swinging.

“There’s nothing there,” he said. “My body is reacting really well so far.”

And as long as that continues, there should be nothing stopping Ohtani from being ready for opening day.

“I think certain players, and certainly a guy like Shohei, knowing what the finish line looks like and how do we get there I think is important to him,” Roberts said. “So I think [him setting a goal] makes us all feel better on how we get to that point.”

Glasnow, Yamamoto likely to start in Korea

Much could change over the next month, but for now Roberts said it’s a “safe bet” that offseason additions Tyler Glasnow and Yoshinobu Yamamoto will be the Dodgers’ two starting pitchers — in some order — for their March 20-21 series in Korea.

“I think that makes sense,” Roberts said. “But again, this is a unique ramp-up for everyone. It’s two games that matter, but it’s just two games. So the entirety of the season and making sure these guys are ready to take down the starts, that’s most important.”

While Roberts has said previously he is open to using a piggy-back pitching plan in both games — essentially, where the first five or six innings of a game are split between a starting pitcher and long reliever — general manager Brandon Gomes noted the team expects to have their pitchers built up to five innings and 75 pitches by the time they cross the Pacific.

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