Rookie catcher Will Smith has already made an impact in his first week and a half with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He can thank Austin Barnes for the opportunity, as Barnes’ trip to the 10-day injured list paved way for Smith to make his MLB debut.
Barnes has recovered from his groin injury, though, and his return on Friday meant that Smith was sent back to Triple-A Oklahoma City. However, Barnes has also taken notice of what his young teammate has done in Smith’s short time with the Dodgers.
“It’s not easy for a young catcher to come up, especially with the Dodgers,” Barnes told DodgerBlue.com. “Every game matters, the learning curve’s kind of sharpened. But he’s doing a great job.”
Barnes was in a similar position four years ago, making his Major League debut on a contending Dodgers team alongside the veteran catching tandem of Yasmani Grandal and A.J. Ellis. He played sparingly in 2015 and 2016 until making the Dodgers’ Opening Day roster in 2017, which would become a breakout season for him.
Smith, meanwhile, had a two-hit night in his debut on May 29. His first big league home run memorable on June 1, giving the Dodgers a walk-off win over the Philadelphia Phillies. He homered again in the Dodgers’ loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Wednesday.
Overall, Smith sports a solid .286/.348/.619 slash line through his first 23 plate appearances.
Barnes, though, seemed more pleased with how Smith and veteran backup Russell Martin were handling the Dodgers’ pitching staff in his absence. Dodgers pitchers have held opponents to three runs or fewer in seven straight games, dating back to May 30.
“They’re doing a great job up there,” Barnes said. “They’re putting up a lot of zeroes, and that’s the most important thing.”
Barnes also pointed out that Smith, like the Dodgers’ two veteran catchers, are all capable of playing the infield. That versatility has led some to speculate that the Dodgers could carry Smith, Martin and Barnes on their active roster at the same time, but manager Dave Roberts recently dismissed that as a possibility.
Regardless, Smith seems to have made a good first impression on several of his teammates, including the one whose injury gave Smith the chance to prove himself on the game’s highest level in the first place.