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Tony Gonsolin shines, Caleb Ferguson and Austin Barnes discuss potential roles

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Straight from spring training.

San Francisco Giants v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

There weren’t a lot of bright spots in Monday’s 4-1 loss to the Giants. However, one of the silver linings was the performance from right-hander Tony Gonsolin.

Gonsolin, 24, was a ninth round pick in the 2016 draft out of St. Mary’s. He spent 2018 between Rancho Cucamonga and Tulsa. In 26 starts, Gonsolin went 10-2 with a 2.60 ERA. He had 155 strikeouts in 128 innings.

So far this spring he has made three appearances. He’s thrown six innings without allowing a run while striking out five. Opponents are hitting only .190 off of him.

According to the latest prospect rankings, Gonsolin is the No. 5 prospect in the Dodgers’ system and the No. 2 pitcher.

He was lights out on Monday, throwing three innings. Nine hitters stepped up to the place, and all nine got out, three coming courtesy of the strikeout.

“I was throwing a lot of strikes, trying to pound the zone with all four pitches, results speak for themselves,” Gonsolin said after the game.

After playing in double-A last year, Gonsolin will either start the season in Tulsa again, or be promoted to Oklahoma City. Either way, he’s motivated to find his way onto the big-league roster, and wear the Dodgers across his chest in a major-league game.

“It’s been fantastic,” he said on wearing the Dodgers jersey. “Every day I get to represent this organization. I’m just trying to get better and do what I can to work up the ladder and hopefully one day play in Dodger Stadium.”

The Dodgers are high on Gonsolin. His name was included in a lot of trade rumors, but LA made sure they held onto him. Dave Roberts is high on him as well, giving the pitcher a lot of praise following his outing.

“Just his composure on the mound against good big-league hitters,” Roberts said. “The way he can command three to four pitches. It was a very efficient three innings from him.”

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Earlier in the day, Roberts spoke about his expectations for Caleb Ferguson for the 2019 season. He said the plan is to stretch him to three innings. With a starting rotation already crowded, this gives Ferguson a chance to rack up innings, and eventually prepare him for the workload of a starting pitcher.

Following his outing on Monday, I spoke with Ferguson. He said that he hasn’t spoken recently with Roberts in regards to him throwing three innings at a time.

“We had a conversation early in camp,” he said. “Since then we haven’t talked about anything. He says to keep me ready for 2-3, that’s what I’m doing.”

This isn’t something new for Ferguson, though. After being converted into a reliever last season, majority of his appearances were multiple innings. “When I got moved to the pen last year it was a similar thing, I’d go 2-3 with a couple days off. Never prepared for a season this way.”

Ferguson knows that the pitching is crowded on the Dodgers. There are 13 spots, and he might not have one of them. If sent back to Oklahoma City, he’ll likely be a starter, racking up innings while he waits for his shot in the big leagues again.

“It’s part of the game,” he said about being sent down. “You go down there and keep competing. Show them you’re ready to pitch. It’s just the way goes, when you’re in an organization as good as the Dodgers, it’s part of it. There’s arms everywhere. There’s guys that got sent down to minor-league camp that could pitch for a different team. Everybody is so talented, when you get your opportunity, you better capitalize on it.”

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One of the biggest surprises this spring has been the play of Austin Barnes. After a dismal season in 2018, Barnes has been one of the best hitters for LA so far.

He’s hitting .304, and has driven in eight runs, which is tied for the team lead.

“Just being more athletic,” Barnes said about his success. “Seeing the ball well. Putting some good swings on balls in the zone.”

After spending the last few seasons competing for the starting job, Barnes will have new competition in 2019. 36-year-old Russell Martin, who was acquired from the Blue Jays, will battle Barnes for at-bats this season.

“He’s a great resource,” Barnes said. “Just the way he gets after it, you can learn a lot from that. He really takes advantage of how athletic he is behind the plate. It’s great to have him and it’s fun to work with him.”

Speaking of competition, there are two catchers in the farm system that can make appearances on the big-league roster as soon as this season. Will Smith (No. 6) and Keibert Ruiz (No. 2) are both top-10 prospects, and both catchers.

“They’re great people,” Barnes said. “I really like both of them a lot. They’re hard workers. It’s not an easy position being a catcher, so I think they understand how much work goes into it. They’re great to have here, and they are really good ballplayers.”