Austin Barnes has already accomplished plenty in his Los Angeles Dodgers career. He has caught some of the game’s best pitchers and he has started World Series games. But Tuesday night marked an even rarer chance to play a professional baseball game close to home.
“It’s nice being able to sleep in your own bed,” Barnes said Tuesday after his rehab game with High-A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. His hometown of Riverside is less than 20 miles away from LoanMart Field, the Quakes’ home stadium.
“I wish it was that close from [my house] to LA,” Barnes joked. “But that traffic’s a little much.”
Barnes went 1-for-3 with an RBI single in a 7-3 Quakes victory over the Lancaster JetHawks. It marked the first of two scheduled rehab games for Barnes, both of which are coming with the Quakes.
Barnes was placed on the 10-day injured list May 27 after injuring his groin the previous day while running the bases late in a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Barring a setback, he is slated to be activated ahead of the Dodgers’ series opener against the San Francisco Giants on Friday.
Barnes got a chance to test out his mobility by scoring from first base on a double from Quakes shortstop Jeter Downs in the third inning. He also caught the first five innings of the game and did not appear limited when throwing to second on a stolen base attempt in the opening frame, though the throw was late.
Barnes later confirmed what seemed obvious to anyone who watched him move around behind the plate and sprint on the basepaths: He feels healthy.
“It’s behind me,” Barnes said of the strained groin. “I think [the training staff] did a good job by attacking it and moving past it. It was nice to be out here and run around and test it, going from first to home.”
Barnes was also impressed by his teammates’ preparation and had some nice words for starting pitcher Josiah Gray. Gray tossed five innings Tuesday, striking out six while walking one. His only blemish of the night was a two-run home run that barely cleared the right-field fence.
“I think they do a good job,” Barnes said. “A lot better job than I remember from when I was in the minor leagues of doing some scouting and doing that kind of stuff.”
The Quakes got the scoring started in the bottom of the first. After Barnes grounded out, Downs and third baseman Devin Mann hit back-to-back home runs.
After Barnes’ RBI single put the Quakes ahead for good in the third inning, a double from Downs and a single from Mann gave Rancho Cucamonga two more runs.
“[Downs] was smacking the ball all over today,” Barnes said. “A lot of guys put a lot of good swings on it. Really good group.”