The Los Angeles Dodgers have not only placed a premium on versatility with their infielders and outfielders, it’s also been seen with their catchers as well.
Austin Barnes has sporadically come out from behind the plate since making his MLB debut in 2015, Russell Martin has done so throughout the course of his career, and Will Smith began to expand himself despite being heralded as one of the organization’s top catching prospects.
Smith was recalled Sunday for a second stint with the Dodgers, though this time replacing David Freese on the active roster instead of an injured catcher (Barnes). With three backstops at his disposal, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts hinted he may tap into their positional versatility.
“There’s a chance that you could see Austin Barnes at second base in that Arizona series. There’s a chance you could see Russell Martin (playing the infield) at some point in time here in the next week,” Roberts said.
However, don’t expect to see Smith being utilized outside of catcher. “He’s played some third base, more last year,” Roberts noted. “I don’t see that happening. I’ve got Russell at third base before Will.”
Earlier this year Roberts dismissed the likelihood of Martin playing the infield, because of other interchangeable pieces the Dodgers have. “With our roster, I don’t see it happening. But things are unpredictable,” he said at the time.
“I do think it’s good for a guy that’s not playing every day to go out there and move around, work on his hands, keeps his legs in shape. I think that’s good, I really do. I think there’s more of a chance to see Austin out there to play second base sometimes, potentially to keep a catcher in a game if I feel we need to.”
Barnes played his first game at second base as a rookie in 2015, making a start and logging six innings up the middle. He’s spent a career 167 innings at second over 48 games (13 starts). That’s compared to just 4.1 innings and three games (zero starts) at third base.
Martin played 71.1 innings across 12 games (eight starts) at third base over five seasons in his first stint with the Dodgers. After time with the New York Yankees and Pittsburgh Pirates, it was the Toronto Blue Jays who were more aggressive in putting him at the hot corner.
Then last season, the Blue Jays had Martin start games at shortstop and in left field. What he did cross off as a career-first with the Dodgers was pitching, as he was called on to finish a blowout victory against the Arizona Diamondbacks.