Dodgers’ Austin Barnes in position for more starts after stellar NLDS performance – Daily News



LOS ANGELES — Manager Dave Roberts stopped short of saying Austin Barnes would be the Dodgers’ starting catcher for the duration of the National League Championship Series.

Yet after an NLDS in which Barnes went 4 for 8 with a walk, a home run and a stolen base, it’s hard to envision him on the bench going forward.

Barnes started Games 2 and 3 as the Dodgers swept the Arizona Diamondbacks in the best-of-five series. Erstwhile starter Yasmani Grandal did not play after going 0 for 4 with two strikeouts in Game 1.

“He hasn’t played in a whole bunch of big games but just the way he plays and prepares, it was no surprise the at-bat quality he had, the big hits that he got, the way he handled the pitching staff,” Roberts said of Barnes. “It was certainly good for us to see it and more importantly for him to just gain that confidence, to do it on that stage.”

In his only prior postseason experience, Barnes made one plate appearance in last year’s NLDS and struck out. Thursday, he downplayed any confidence he might have gained on the postseason stage.

“I treat every game I play pretty seriously,” Barnes said. “I’ve treated the whole season like it was a playoff game. There’s definitely a little bit more emotion from everybody in those playoff games. They’re fun, intense – there’s a focus on every pitch.”

Grandal began the 2017 season as the Dodgers’ undisputed starter, and his playing time followed a predictable pattern. Only once did Roberts start Grandal in more than five straight games; Grandal never took more than two consecutive games off. There was never much of a “personal catcher” relationship between any Dodgers pitcher and catcher, though Barnes caught six of Rich Hill’s last eight starts.

The arrangement shifted when Grandal fell into a slump at the plate and Barnes did not. Grandal had a .275 batting average, .322 on-base percentage and .487 slugging percentage on July 29. From that point forward, his slash line was .186/.280/.400.

Barnes started 10 of the Dodgers’ final 22 regular-season games, including one at second base. He finished the season with a .289 average, .408 on-base percentage and .486 slugging percentage.

“If you look at certain matchups, Yasi got the brunt of the catching duties for the season and a certain right-handed matchup could make sense for us” to start Grandal in the NLCS, Roberts said. “Also, as we originally scripted this whole deal out with Austin coming off the bench and taking an at-bat in a big part of the game, also has value. But you can’t dismiss what he’s done here in the postseason.”

Barnes declared himself ready to play catcher or second base as needed.

“You never know,” he said. “Being in the National League, anything can happen with switches.”

Barnes appeared to be in significant pain after taking a foul ball off his lower body while catching a sim game later Thursday night. A similar thing happened to him during his final regular-season start in Colorado.

ROTATION ALMOST SET

Roberts hasn’t set his rotation beyond Clayton Kershaw in Game 1 and Alex Wood in Game 4. Games 2 and 3 will be started by Rich Hill and Yu Darvish in some order.

“After tonight we’ll make that decision,” Roberts said, prior to Game 5 between the Washington Nationals and Chicago Cubs.

Hill threw a bullpen session Thursday, which would position him to start Game 2 on Sunday at Dodger Stadium. Game 3 is Tuesday on the road, and Hill could conceivably throw an abbreviated bullpen between now and then to stay fresh.

ALSO

Shortstop Corey Seager is day-to-day after tweaking his back while sliding in Game 3, Roberts said, but his availability for the NLCS is “no real concern.” Seager did not take part in the team workout Thursday. … Neither did Grandal, who flew home to Arizona to be with his pregnant wife. Grandal was expected back in Los Angeles in time for Friday’s workout. … Pitcher Luis Avilan reported no physical issues one day after throwing a 20-pitch simulated game. The left-handed reliever missed the NLDS with inflammation in his shoulder and is a possibility to be on the Dodgers’ 25-man NLCS roster. Roberts said the final roster, which isn’t due until Saturday morning, hasn’t been set.



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