Dodgers News: Dave Roberts Optimistic Austin Barnes Will Benefit From String Of Starts
Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes during batting practice at PNC Park
Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports

When Austin Barnes emerged during the 2017 season, he usurped Yasmani Grandal as the starting catcher and provided a jolt to the lineup. However, Barnes has been unable to replicate that success and now finds the table turned as the backup to Will Smith.

Heading into the 2020 season, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts indicated Smith would receive the bulk of the starts. But with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic creating unique circumstances, playing time has largely been split evenly.

It wasn’t until the beginning of this week that Smith started in back-to-back games. Roberts indicated the rookie had gotten his legs under him and was on the verge of the becoming the regular catcher.

That’s now on hold as Smith is dealing with a sore neck that is a result of a collision at home plate last week. He aggravated the issue after fielding a bunt in the fifth inning on Wednesday.

Barnes replaced Smith, started the series finale against the San Diego Padres, and is expected to be in the lineup again Friday. Having struggled at the plate through much of the season, Barnes has shown recent signs of improvement.

“It’s great,” Roberts said. “He’s on the come and feeling more confident in the batter’s box, feeling better with his mechanics.”

Considering Barnes has been working through mechanical issues, Roberts is optimistic the run of starts will prove beneficial. “It works in the sense of giving Austin some consistent at-bats. It’ll be nice to get Will back but getting Austin going is certainly a good thing,” Roberts added.

Including when he took over for Smith, Barnes has a hit in the past three games; two of those were multi-hit efforts. The latest of which came in Thursday’s rout of the Padres, when Barnes hit one of the Dodgers’ six home runs.

Smith expected to avoid injured list

Like with Corey Seager when he was recovering from lower back discomfort, the Dodgers are optimistic Smith will manage to avoid a stint on the 10-day injured list.

“It’s more localized in the neck,” Roberts explained. “When it is more localized, that’s a good thing. He’s day-to-day, we’ll manage it, keep an eye on it. If we have to go a different direction with a Rocky Gale or Keibert, we can do that as well.”

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