After sending him to the minors to rectify his offensive woes, the Dodgers recalled catcher Austin Barnes from triple-A Oklahoma City on Saturday after placing catcher Russell Martin on the bereavement list.
Barnes’s return likely is temporary. Martin must miss at least three games but can’t miss more than seven while on the bereavement list. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said the plan is for Martin, whose grandmother died recently, to miss the minimum three games and rejoin the team in San Diego on Tuesday. The Dodgers plan to then option Barnes back to Oklahoma City. He’d be recalled again when rosters expand Sept. 1.
“He just really felt if it weren’t for his role now as more of a backup, to be able to miss essentially, it’d be one game that he would miss,” Roberts said of Martin. “He really felt he wanted to be with his family and so we supported that.”
Barnes is back after batting .250 with six home runs 20 games for Oklahoma City. Five of the home runs came in his first five games in August. In 70 games for the Dodgers, the 29-year-old was one of the least productive regulars in the majors, batting .196 with five home runs. Roberts said Barnes will start Sunday and catch Clayton Kershaw in the series finale against the New York Yankees.
“Austin’s been good,” Roberts said. “I think when he got [to Oklahoma City], he started off really well, hit some homers, and cooled off a little bit. But i think the at-bat quality has been consistent throughout.”
The 36-year-old Martin is batting .207 with four home runs in 69 games. He has served as the Dodgers’ backup catcher throughout the season, first for Barnes and, over the last month, for Will Smith.
Dodgers to ease Ryu’s workload
Roberts said the Dodgers could have Hyun-Jin Ryu skip a turn or shorten an outing in September to avoid fatigue. Ryu has logged 152 2/3 innings this season, his most since throwing 198 innings in the 2014 regular season and playoffs. Ryu totaled 232 2/3 innings over the last four seasons, each of which included time on the injured list.
Ryu has been a front-runner for the National League Cy Young Award all season, but his candidacy has taken a hit recently. He’s allowed 11 runs and five home runs in 10 innings across his last two outings. Ryu had given up two earned runs and no home runs in his previous six starts. Roberts, however, said the club believes fatigue is not the reason for his struggles.
“The command has been kind of compromised a little bit, but I think, talking to the player, the staff, there’s no fatigue,” Roberts said. “We all know it’s more than he’s pitched since ’14. but he’s done a great job of keeping himself strong.”
Rich Hill’s bullpen ‘good’
Rich Hill threw a 20-pitch bullpen session Saturday, his first time throwing off a mound since going on the injured list with a forearm strain in June. Hill tossed all fastballs. He said he will mix in curveballs in his next session.
“It was good,” Hill said.
The left-hander said he is scheduled to throw two more bullpens before logging a live batting practice session. He could then return to the Dodgers. Hill estimated that will be in about two weeks.
Ross Stripling needs a mound
Ross Stripling said he would log three innings or 45 pitches Tuesday. The question is where. He said it will either be in a game in the Arizona Summer League or in a simulated game facing Dodgers on the injured list in San Diego.
Stripling hasn’t pitched since exiting a start July 24 with neck stiffness. He threw a bullpen session a few days later but his neck remained a problem. He has thrown two bullpens since that setback, including a simulated inning against four hitters Friday.
Roberts said outfielder Alex Verdugo has begun baseball activities in Arizona as he recovers from an oblique strain. Verdugo has taken dry swings and played catch. Despite the progress, Dodgers don’t expect him to be ready to return when rosters expand Sept. 1. ... Julio Urias will throw a bullpen in Arizona on Sunday, Roberts said. It will be Urias’ first time throwing off a mound since Major League Baseball suspended him for violating the league’s domestic violence policy. Urias will build up to three innings and could be extended further in games. The Dodgers plan on Urias returning to the club when he is eligible Sept. 3.