Blake Treinen expected to travel with Dodgers to South Korea, bolstering bullpen

Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto, of Japan, communicates with the infielders during the second inning of the team's spring training baseball game against the Seattle Mariners on Wednesday, March 13, 2024, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Dodgers relief pitcher Blake Treinen is expected to travel with the team to South Korea as a member of its active roster after a promising bullpen session Wednesday, manager Dave Roberts said.

Treinen worked past “residual soreness” to throw 15 pitches in the session, Roberts said.

“Today was a good day for Blake,” Roberts said.

The team said Treinen had a bruised lung, though no broken ribs, because of a comebacker that nailed him in his side during an appearance Saturday. Before the injury, Treinen had surrendered zero earned runs and just two hits in 3⅔ innings upon his official return this spring. He missed the entire 2023 season because of a shoulder surgery he underwent in November 2022.

Read more: Dodgers pleased with 'really sharp' Blake Treinen, but team continues to stress caution

Brusdar Graterol not being available for the Seoul trip amid hip tightness and shoulder soreness makes Treinen’s potential availability that much more important for the Dodgers’ bullpen.

Graterol pitched in only one Cactus League game following a 2023 season in which he sported a 1.20 ERA with 67⅓ innings pitched across 68 appearances. He said Sunday that he hopes to be ready by the Dodgers’ domestic opener against the St. Louis Cardinals on March 28.

Yoshinobu Yamamoto tosses final tuneup

The first three innings of Yoshinobu Yamamoto’s final Cactus League start Wednesday went as many did throughout his dominant stint in the Japan Pacific League.

Seattle Mariners shortstop and leadoff batter JP Crawford left the box the way he stepped in, with his bat perched upon his shoulders. Julio Rodríguez and Jorge Polanco tried their luck swinging but to the same end.

Yamamoto rolled through the Mariners’ lineup with relative ease, allowing only two baserunners after three innings.

“When I was in Japan … I was thinking about my numbers,” Yamamoto said Wednesday through an interpreter. “But here, because I came to a different league, it's different now.

“I know what I need to do to get myself ready for the regular season.”

His second time through the order was not nearly as convincing. Across 4⅔ innings pitched, Yamamoto gave up four earned runs and eight hits in an 8-1 loss — numbers he may not remember next week. He’ll be focused on what he called “the real one,” set to pitch against Joe Musgrove in the Dodgers’ second regular-season game with the San Diego Padres.

“The biggest learning curve, which we're going to continue to learn more from and about, is what pitches play, how his stuff plays going through a lineup one time, two times, three times,” Roberts said after the game.

Dodgers starting catcher Will Smith was a late scratch because of “low back tightness,” according to the team. Austin Barnes caught for Yamamoto in Smith’s place.

Roberts said the decision to sit him was merely precautionary after Smith experienced some soreness from a weight-room exercise earlier this week.

A different kind of getaway day

The lone MLB franchise with at least 100 wins in each of the last four full seasons will soon take to Seoul, South Korea, to start anew, with the same expectations, multiplied by Shohei Ohtani and Yamamoto.

How might Roberts shoulder the weight of such anticipation after back-to-back NLDS exits?

The man just needs to pack.

Read more: How Shohei Ohtani's 'mystique' is transforming the Dodgers' future

“It’s a lot to deal with as we get ready to go to South Korea, and as we come back, the travel and things like that,” Roberts said Tuesday.

Roberts, “a big cultural guy,” said he looked forward to the overseas trip, adding that he might even play some golf. Gavin Stone, still not guaranteed to make the roster as one of two front-runners for the No. 5 rotation spot, perked up his ears at the possibility of getting some drives in during his first international trip.

Everyone has their own process.

Mookie Betts did not want to ruminate through future permutations.

The premier outfielder-turned-shortstop just knows he’s never been on a plane for 14 hours. Google says 16 hours.

“I don’t look too far ahead,” Betts said Tuesday. "Just take it one day at a time.

“Enjoy today. Tomorrow will be a new day. Whenever we walk on the plane, I’ll enjoy that too.”

Bigger glove, better results for Gavin Stone?

Upon making his MLB debut at 24 years old last season, Stone did not entirely know what he was in for. His third appearance against the Tampa Bay Rays on May 28 provided clarity, painful as it was.

Stone gave up 10 hits and seven earned runs in two innings of work that felt like seven, as he consistently tipped his pitches.

“They got me pretty good,” Stone, a top candidate alongside Michael Grove for the final spot in the Dodgers’ season-opening rotation, said before Wednesday's game.

The Atlanta Braves, whom he faced in his second appearance, weren’t known to care as much about tipping, according to Stone. The Rays did and let him know just how much.

Read more: How Shohei Ohtani and other Dodgers get their swings in: Games, BP... and a Trajekt Arc?

A quick glance into his 12-inch glove by runners at second base, or the slightest twitch in his right forearm as he re-gripped from a changeup to a slider, had set him up for failure.

So he got 12½-inch gloves and adjusted his stretch routine.

Stone relentlessly pounded a glove mallet into the new Nokona mitts he received Wednesday, at one point taking a break to demonstrate the small forward lean added ahead of his set position that he hopes will make a big difference on the bump this season.

“You don’t really notice stuff like that until you’re up in the big leagues,” Stone said.

“People in the minors, you could tip all day and they probably won’t even notice.”

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.