As the playoffs approached in 2017, Austin Barnes supplanted Yasmani Grandal as the Dodgers’ starting catcher. A season later, the roles have reversed, even more notably. Grandal has overtaken Barnes as the primary catcher against even left-handed pitchers, earning a start Thursday night against Colorado Rockies left-hander Tyler Anderson.
“He’s our starting catcher,” manager Dave Roberts said before the game. “We’ve got to get him in there.”
Granal entered the game with a .676 on-base plus slugging percentage against left-handed pitchers, as compared to a .910 OPS against right-handed pitchers. He has still been more productive than Barnes, who has posted a .573 OPS after finishing last season with an .895 OPS.
The team’s lack of confidence in Barnes at the plate showed Tuesday at Oakland, when the bench twice instructed him to squeeze bunt with a runner at third base and less than one out. Barnes drove in a run with one but bunted into a force play at the plate on the other.
With Barnes in a season-long funk, the Dodgers probably will pursue an upgrade at backup catcher as players become available through the waiver wire before July 31. They added Carlos Ruiz as Grandal’s backup, replacing A.J. Ellis, in August 2016.
Hill ready to become the mountain
On Aug. 24, Major League Baseball will convene its second annual Players Weekend, which allows players to wear nicknames on the backs of their jerseys. The names are often quite bland: Corey Seager is “Seags,” Clayton Kershaw is “Kersh,” Matt Kemp is “Matt.”
But credit Rich Hill for creativity. He will wear “D. Mountain,” a reference to one of the many nicknames bestowed upon him in his life. Growing up outside of Boston, he was called “Richie” or “Dicky” by his friends. The Dodgers often refer to Hill as “Ricardo” or “Psycho Rich,” the latter a nod to his intensity on the mound. This season his teammates have started calling him “Dick Mountain,” a combination of a diminutive of his given name and a synonym for his surname, which Hill picked up during his days as a player in Boston.
“Guys called me ‘Mountain’ or ‘Dick Mountain’ with the Red Sox,” Hill said. “So it’s followed me around. I figured put it on the back of the jersey for Players Weekend and have some fun with it.”