Austin Barnes started for the third time in 12 games this season on Saturday, and hit his first major league home run.
"It’s important for Yasmani Grandal to get days [off]," manager Dave Roberts said. "It’s important for Austin to stay relevant, stay current. I like his receiving back there. His at-bat quality is good. He’s real green, but we’re going to keep running him out there, and I feel good when he is behind the plate."
But like most days when a regular doesn’t start, that doesn’t necessarily mean a full day off. Grandal, for instance, entered in a double switch in the eighth inning when closer Kenley Jansen came in, and caught the final four outs.
Yasiel Puig is the only Dodger to start all 12 games this season, but three others have played in all 12.
Adrian Gonzalez was out of the lineup twice so far, but ended up playing in both games. Corey Seager and Logan Forsythe both played in the one game they didn’t start.
Forsythe, who felt tightness in his right hamstring and left on Saturday after just four innings, won’t be in the lineup tomorrow and likely won’t play, which probably means a start for Chase Utley.
On average, the Dodgers use just over 11 position players per game, which means three of their five bench players, on average, see action every game. The Dodgers used all 13 position players in two games against the Cubs, and in three other games they have used 12.
Friday’s win over the Diamondbacks was the only game this season that saw the Dodgers not use a single position player sub.
It’s a delicate balance between trying to get regular rest for the mostly everyday players, keeping them fresh for later in the season and into October, while also trying to make sure the reserves get enough playing time to remain productive.
Scott Van Slyke has started just twice — though he has played in 11 of 12 games — and is 2-for-13 (.154) with a double and three walks. He walked and scored Saturday night. Utley has started only three games and played in eight, and he’s 1-for-17 (.059) with a walk.
It helps that several Dodgers play multiple positions. Forsythe has started at second and third, Van Slyke has played first base, left field and center field, Andrew Toles has played left and center, and Barnes has even seen time at third base.
But the utility man who stands out for his versatility is Kiké Hernandez, who has started at shortstop, center field and left field, and on Saturday night added second base to his 2017 ledger, making two stellar defensive plays to help the Dodgers preserve their lead.
"It’s just something people take for granted, that versatility and that unselfishness to move all over the diamond, to come off the bench, and get a spot start," Roberts said. "I don’t take it for granted. He had a huge night."
Hernandez also doubled and scored on Saturday.
The mixing and matching of Dodgers lineups isn’t going away anytime soon. Just know that no matter who starts, just about everyone will get a chance to still play.
Time: 1:10 p.m. PT
TV: SportsNet LA, KTLA