Shohei Ohtani expected to miss only one game with back tightness

After being removed early from Saturday’s win over the San Diego Padres because of back tightness, Dodgers slugger Shohei Ohtani was not in the team’s starting lineup for their Sunday series finale at Petco Park.

However, manager Dave Roberts said, Ohtani is expected back in the fold for Monday when the team opens a three-game series in San Francisco against the Giants, and he could be an option to pinch-hit Sunday if needed.

“It’s better today,” Roberts said. “We’re in the middle of 13 [games] in a row. He was gonna get a day at some point in time. So with a little bit of smoke, I just want to make sure we put that to bed.”

Ohtani said he first started feeling discomfort in his back while working out before Saturday’s game. He still started in the Dodgers’ 5-0 win, and drew a walk while going hitless in his other three at-bats. In the ninth inning, though, the Dodgers pinch-hit for Ohtani after Roberts said he “got word … that his back tightened up.”

After the game, Roberts described the team’s concern level with Ohtani’s back as “minimal” and said removing him early was a “precautionary” move.

On Sunday morning, both the manager and the two-time MVP continued to strike an optimistic tone. Ohtani said through his interpreter that he “actually felt pretty good” when he woke up, and was able to complete his normal pregame routine.

Did he plan to pinch-hit if needed?

“That’s my intention,” Ohtani said, “but I’m sure the score will dictate that.”

The 29-year-old Ohtani has been the Dodgers’ best player this season, batting .352 (second in the majors) with 11 home runs (tied for fourth), 27 RBIs (tied for 13th) and a major-league-leading 1.090 OPS.

Ohtani has also missed only one game so far this year, a routine day off May 1 during the team’s road trip to Arizona.

The two-way star has been rehabbing his pitching elbow after a Tommy John surgery last year, including an every-other-day throwing program he began in late March. However, Ohtani has said repeatedly that the ailment has no effect on his swing.

Roberts said Ohtani’s back issue shouldn’t affect his throwing progression, either.

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