For Now, Austin Barnes Has Stronghold on Catcher’s Spot

(Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports)

It’s hard to believe the difference a few weeks can make on the baseball field.

Over his first 25 plate appearances of the shortened 2020 season, Austin Barnes went a paltry 2-for-22 at the plate, leading many fans of the Dodgers to debate both the short term and long term solutions for the organization at catcher.

We actually had a conversation about the matter on Sunday.

However, during his last 26 PA, the 30-year-old journeyman has gone a very impressive 12-for-24, and his five runs scored have been among the team’s most worthy contributions.

On Tuesday night, Barnes emerged as one of the game’s heroes, leading the Dodgers to a 2-1 victory over the Mariners and stretching the team’s winning streak to a season-high seven games. Los Angeles now stands alone at 18-7 with the best record in the majors.

Barnes ended up scoring both runs in the victory. In the sixth inning, his hustle allowed him to beat out a bunt-like dribbler to the pitcher. After advancing to second on a Corey Seager ground out, Barnes scored with two out on a Justin Turner roller to left field, providing the Dodgers with a 1-0 lead on a night when offense was at a premium for both sides.

With the game tied at one apiece in the eighth inning, Barnes drew a one-out walk and later stole second base, once again exhibiting his valuable skills on the basepaths. Again with two out, Barnes sped home on a Seager single to right field, putting the Dodgers ahead for good.

After the game, Barnes told Ken Gurnick of MLB.com that he gives credit to some of his recent success to his teammate, Mookie Betts.

“He’s helped me tremendously,” Barnes said of Betts. “I don’t know if he wants it out there, wants it under the radar, but he’s helped me swinging-wise. He helps me talking about hitting. He’s helped me in the cage, been in there with me in the cage and hit with me and watched me swing. And that shows you what kind of teammate he is, to take time from his day to help someone else.”

With the halfway point of the season near, Barnes is now hitting .304/.347/.391 with six RBI, seemingly elevating him to the top of the organization’s totem pole as far as catchers go.

At the onset of the season, Will Smith was named the starting catcher out of summer camp, but the 25-year-old backstop was placed on the injured list last weekend with neck stiffness. The original thought was to have Barnes catch every fourth day or so, but after considering his recent level of production, skipper Dave Roberts may need to think twice when allotting playing time behind the plate.

If there’s one downfall in Barnsey’s game right now, it’s probably the strength of his throwing arm. Opposing base runners have swiped nine of 10 bags on him this season, but there’s still plenty of time for him and the pitching staff to make some prospective adjustments. It’s definitely something to keep an eye on as the season progresses.

In the meantime, both the Dodgers and the Mariners head north to resume their series on Wednesday for two games in Seattle.

Julio Urias will face righty Taijuan Walker in the first game, while Clayton Kershaw will square off against the left-handed Yusei Kikuchi in the finale on Thursday.

Wednesday’s first pitch is slated for 6:40 p.m. Los Angeles time.

 

5 thoughts on “For Now, Austin Barnes Has Stronghold on Catcher’s Spot

  1. I think he will get a rest tonight and Ruiz will start against the Mariners. But “Basher” Barnes has been on fire since he has started listening to Mookie. They have a RH going tonight and another lefty tomorrow. A Japanese import, Kikuchi. Walker they have seen before when he was with the Diamondbacks. The D-Backs offense has woken up, and the Rockies, who come into LA on Friday have cooled off. Grienke totally shut them down last night and they have lost consecutive 2-1 games.

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  2. The next time we all gather together to bash a player we need to remember that things can change in a hurry at the beginning of a season. That also holds true in reverse. Barnes could go 2 for his next 25 and come back down to earth.
    Every day I admire Mookie more and more. He is the absolute epitome of what you want your star player to be. He’s excellent on offense and defense. He is always smiling and cheering on his teammates. We now know that he’s willing to take time to work with guys in the cage to improve their approach (so he’s acting as an extra coach). He’s already established himself doing charity work in the community. He deserves every penny we gave him……….and more.

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  3. Barnes, he was lost and now he’s found. Seemed to go from taking good pitches, hoping to walk, to being aggressive and has regained his confidence. A big plus, if it’s permanent.

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  4. Belli, Muncy and Joc go yard, Urias cannot get out of the 2nd, Santana gives up a 3 run bomb. This is looking like the 11-9 game the other night.

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  5. Giants called up their top prospect, catcher Joey Bart. Looks like Thom Brennamans career is going to come to a skidding halt. He has been removed from both the Reds booth, and Fox sports for a homophobic slur and a lame apology.

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