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Austin Barnes starts at catcher in Rockies opener

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MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at Colorado Rockies Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Austin Barnes gets the start at catcher for the Dodgers in Thursday’s series opener against the Rockies at Coors Field, looking to build on a strong start to his 2017 season.

Barnes delivered the game-winning hit on Tuesday night, an RBI double into the right center field gap, and with six of his nine hits for extra bases so far this season Barnes has been a bit like Padres infielder Ryan Schimpf.

In 13 games and 39 plate appearances, Barnes has four doubles, three singles, a home run, a triple, and five walks so far this season, hitting .265/.359/.529.

Starting lineups

Pos Dodgers Pos Rockies
Pos Dodgers Pos Rockies
CF Pederson (L) CF Blackmon (L)
SS Seager (L) 2B LeMahieu
3B Turner 3B Arenado
LF Bellinger (L) 1B Reynolds
2B Taylor LF Desmond
1B Utley (L) RF Gonzalez (L)
RF Puig SS Valaika
C Barnes C Hanigan
P Ryu P Hoffman
Time: 5:40 p.m. PT TV: SportsNet LA

This is Barnes’ ninth start in 35 games, with Yasmani Grandal starting the last three games, and going 8-for-13 (.615) with two doubles and a home run during that span.

“With the depth we have, you have to keep the guys current,” manager Dave Roberts said on Tuesday. “I’ve still got to find a way, as tough as it is, to give these guys a day.”

Grandal through 35 team games in 2015 made 26 starts, en route to 100 starts behind the plate. In 2016, thanks to missing the first week on the disabled list Grandal started 17 of the first 35 games at catcher, and ended the year with 106 starts.

Barnes has reached base by hit or walk in six of his eight starts this season.

Rox roster move

Colorado made a rotation change for this series. Jeff Hoffman, the club’s top pitching prospect will be recalled from Triple-A Albuquerque to start the series opener instead of Tyler Anderson, who was bumped to Saturday.

To make room for Hoffman, the Rockies placed Trevor Story on the 10-day disabled list with a left shoulder strain.

Hoffman pitched in eight games, including six starts, at the end of last season during his major league debut. He was up earlier in the week as the 26th man for the Rockies’ doubleheader on Tuesday, pitching 1⅓ innings in relief against the Cubs, making 18 pitches.

Hot start

The Rockies lead the Dodgers by 1½ games in the National League West, and Colorado’s 22-13 record is their best ever after 35 games. The previous franchise mark after 35 games was 21-14, set by teams in 1997 and 2014 that won 83 and 66 games, respectively.

That doesn’t doom this 2017 Rockies team to some sort of dystopian finish, but rather points out that there is hardly anything conventional about the franchise. Colorado has won 90 games twice, and those were in years that saw them start 15-20 (2007) and 14-21 (2009).