'Cerebral' Tyler Glasnow makes Dodgers debut, targets series start in South Korea

Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Tyler Glasnow, right, watches as teammate Yoshinobu Yamamoto.

The more that Dodgers manager Dave Roberts has gotten to know Tyler Glasnow this spring, the more he uses one specific adjective to describe the team’s new frontline — and potentially opening day — starting pitcher.

“Very cerebral,” Roberts said Saturday morning, describing his early impressions of Glasnow shortly before the pitcher's spring debut with the club.

“I’ve already learned early that he does a lot of homework,” Roberts added. “He knows his strengths, what he's good at. And he appreciates the hitters’ weaknesses as well. So, how he attacks each hitter and goes into games, it's very evident to me that he’s very mindful.”

For now, most of Glasnow’s mental energy is expended on his personal preparation for the upcoming season.

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The veteran right-hander looked a little unsettled in the Dodgers’ Cactus League game against the Angels on Saturday, finishing a 1⅔-inning start with one run, four hits, a walk and a strikeout.

"Not, I guess, the greatest in terms of execution,” Glasnow acknowledged.

However, Glasnow was still pleased with where he is at physically, especially compared to his many injury-plagued springs in the past, how the ball was coming out of his hand, and how it felt to wear a Dodger uniform in an official game for the first time.

"Maybe a little bit, sure,” he said when asked if he felt any nerves for his spring debut. “Warming up, it was nice to get going again. There's a little bit of excitement. And then I think going out there, it’s just kind of like all right, it's good again.”

More profound emotions might come next month.

This last week, Roberts called it a “safe bet” that Glasnow and fellow offseason acquisition Yoshinobu Yamamoto — who is expected to make his Dodgers spring debut this week — would start in the Dodgers’ season-opening series in Korea in late March.

Dodgers pitcher Tyler Glasnow heads to the field.
Dodgers pitcher Tyler Glasgow heads to the field during spring training at Camelback Ranch. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

If Glasnow gets the nod for the first of those two games against the San Diego Padres, it would mark just the second opening day start of his eight-year MLB career.

“First year coming in, it'll be just a cool experience to go pitch in Korea,” said Glasnow, who joked that his only previous international playing experience was the occasional trip to Toronto with the Tampa Bay Rays. “Just to be a 1 or 2 [starter in the rotation] is a great honor for sure."

In the meantime, Glasnow still has plenty to check off his spring training to-do list.

The common theme for most of those objectives: adapting to the Dodgers’ way of doing things, and connecting with pitching coaches Mark Prior and Connor McGuiness in particular.

Like Roberts, Prior has noted Glasnow’s physical self-awareness, highlighting how in tune the lanky 6-foot-8 hurler is with his body and his mechanics.

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“He's big feel guy,” Prior said. “He wants to feel something [as the pitch comes] off his hands.”

Because of that, Glasnow and his teammates have interacted almost like a new couple in the early stages of spring. They’ve asked one another a lot of questions. They’ve traded observations and ideas about Glasnow’s game plan on the rubber.

And, as Glasnow embarks upon another season after he signed a five-year, $136.5-million contract with the Dodgers this winter following his trade from Tampa Bay, the sides are trying to accelerate the getting-to-know-you phase of their burgeoning relationship — a process made all the more imperative by the Dodgers’ early start in Korea.

“It’s more about just trying to get that rapport,” Prior said. “It’s a lot of questions. We definitely have some thoughts [for things he can do on the mound]. But I think our first thing is always to try to draw out of them how they want to go about the process, and what they internalize.”

In bullpen sessions and live batting practice outings, that approach has led to detailed discussions with Prior and McGuiness about Glasnow’s release point, footwork and transfer of weight through his delivery.

“It’s more [telling them] things I want to feel,” Glasnow said, “and them helping me with the cues to feel stuff like that."

Other times, it has led to simple moments like what happened in Saturday’s first inning, when Prior sensed Glasnow could use a quick breather — in this case, in the form of a mound visit — after allowing three of the game’s first four batters to reach base.

“The thing that excites me is that the dialogue with him and Connor and Mark has been fantastic,” Roberts said. “Kind of opening up the curtain, the hood on him, it makes this process of learning each other work quicker. So that's been good.”

The hope is that, by the time opening day arrives, Glasnow will already have a comfort level with his new club and coaching staff. That he will be ready to immediately anchor the team’s new-look rotation. And that, even after his blockbuster trade this winter, he’ll enter a highly anticipated 2024 season feeling settled in his new surroundings.

"It's been awesome so far,” Glasnow said. “They've got a lot of good information for me. And I've learned a lot already.”

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.