The Dodgers signed Travis d’Arnaud on Sunday as more than a right-handed bat off the bench and a third catcher. They envisioned d’Arnaud logging innings at first base and left field. But there’s an obstacle: d’Arnaud has never played those positions professionally.
As a result, d’Arnaud has spent his first few days with the Dodgers taking groundballs at first base and flyballs in the outfield while attempting to familiarize himself with the Dodgers’ pitching staff. Before Thursday, his only at-bats since joining the Dodgers came Tuesday when he faced the rehabbing Caleb Ferguson in a simulated game. He made his Dodgers debut Thursday when he grounded out as a pinch hitter. Roberts made it clear d’Arnaud is the third catching option behind Austin Barnes and Russell Martin.
“We’re trying to get Travis synced up with the pitchers and also the depth that we do have with the catching,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “But I really like the way Austin’s been behind the plate, trending in the right direction at the plate. And the same thing with Russell. Travis is certainly on my mind of trying to get him involved and in there, but I can’t tell you when.”
Ideally, a player familiarizes himself with a new position during spring training. But the Dodgers don’t have that luxury. The 30-year-old d’Arnaud, once a top catching prospect, spent spring training with the New York Mets. He began the season on the injured list as he completed his recovery from Tommy John surgery. He was activated April 7 and went two for 23 at the plate before the Mets designated him for assignment.
With the right-handed-hitting A.J. Pollock out for an extended period of time, the Dodgers see d’Arnaud as a player who can provide flexibility from the right side, free Roberts to use a catcher to pinch-hit, and play multiple positions late in games. But they’re taking their time.
“The actions, just what I see as a baseball player, I like the actions,” Roberts said. “Obviously, there’s going to be a transition, speed of the game, ball off the bat, in first base, left field, it’s different than taking controlled groundballs and flyballs. I just think the more repetition we can give him, but it’s tough. You’re in a big league game and you get exposed pretty quickly if you’re not prepared, so we’re trying to do what we can to speed up the process.”
Left-handers on rehab assignment
Left-hander Caleb Ferguson said he will begin a rehab assignment with Class-A Rancho Cucamonga on Friday. The reliever has been on the 10-day injured list since April 28 with a strained oblique.
Roberts said he didn’t know how many outings Ferguson will log in the minors before returning to the Dodgers. He expects Ferguson, a former starter, to potentially pitch more than one inning at a time in preparation for his role in the majors.
The 23-year-old posted a 3.46 earned-run average in 13 appearances before going on the injured list.
Tony Cingrani tossed a scoreless inning in his second rehab appearance with triple-A Oklahoma City on Thursday. It was Cingrani’s third rehab outing and second with Oklahoma City. He allowed two hits, walked a batter, and struck out two in his first game with Oklahoma City on Tuesday.
The left-handed Cingrani, 29, is on the injured list after suffering a shoulder impingement during spring training.