While the Los Angeles Dodgers relied on a catching tandem to get through the 2017 season, it was Austin Barnes who supplanted Yasmani Grandal as the primary starter down the stretch and for the club’s run to the World Series.
It wasn’t much of a surprise, as Barnes put together a career year and was the proverbial hot hand at a time the Dodgers needed 11 postseason wins. That success led to an open competition last spring.
It was one that saw Grandal re-claim his starting role and despite struggling late in the season, never truly relinquished because Barnes was enduring his own trouble. With Grandal now a member of the Milwaukee Brewers, Barnes and Russell Martin will handle catching duties for the Dodgers.
Manager Dave Roberts has not yet determined who will receive the bulk of starts, though Barnes spent the offseason focused on bouncing back from a subpar year. “I’ve been working on my swing, trying to get it right. Last year was pretty tough,” he admitted.
“I feel pretty confident. I’ve been working with Rob (Van Scoyoc) a lot, been going up [to Dodger Stadium], hitting with him. I’m confident and happy with where my swing is right now. I think he does a great job.
“I needed to reset. It’s hard to make changes in the season. It’s an everyday thing, kind of hard to step back and try to evaluate things. I think we identified some things and just tried to chip away at them. It’s a process. It’s been a motivating offseason, for sure.”
As speculation swirled of the Dodgers’ pursuing established catchers such as Yan Gomes and J.T. Realmuto, Barnes blocked out the external noise. “You can only control what you can control in this game,” he said.
Along with refining his swinging, Barnes’ offseason regimen entailed adding strength to his frame. Whether that will be enough to earn Barnes a starting role or should he remain the backup catcher, he appreciates having the trust of the pitching staff.
“I take pride in knowing all the guys and having a relationship with every single one and knowing how they work,” Barnes said. “We all fight for each other.”