LOS ANGELES —— The Dodgers announced this afternoon that they had selected catcher Will Smith’s contract and he was added to the 25-man active roster today. The 24-year old catcher/third baseman had gotten off to a great start at Oklahoma City this season.
“He’s a young player, catcher, Louisville kid, product of Louisville University,” manager Dave Roberts said this afternoon, “gotten off to a great start, so I expect him to be catching tomorrow night.”
Smith has caught Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill rehab starts and he said that was a great experience as he prepares to catch Hill tomorrow in his first major league start behind the plate.
“It was awesome, it is always fun to catch one of the best pitchers [Kershaw] of our generation and yes, Rich is right there with him,” Will Smith said this afternoon, “I’ve caught him a few times in rehab assignments, he’s really fun to work with and it should be a special night.”
Smith was hitting .290/.404/.551 in over 163 plate appearances. He had eight home runs, 25 walks and 35 strikeouts.strikeouts. While Smith has 54 starts at third base in his minor league career, in 2019, he has played third only once while making 30 starts behind the plate.
“So far, I’ve put together a good year, Smith said, “and trying to get it going forward and to develop more as a hitter and try to keep learning and become a better hitter.”
“In the offseason, definitely made some mechanical adjustments, some approach adjustment too and it’s been kind of a continual improvement from when first I was drafted.”
Smith had been a non-roster invitee to both the 2018 and 2019 spring training camps. He was the 32nd overall pick in the supplemental portion of the first round in 2016. In his first two seasons in the minor leagues, he primarily played for the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes in the California League.
“I expect to see him handle himself really well,” Roberts said, “and we had him in camp, spring training, the last couple of years and so as far as the familiarity with what we do, the players in that room, the coaches, the training staff, the familiarity, that’s great.”
“How we kind of attack, game plan, there’s a lot of continuity in the minor leagues going up to the big level so that’s similar,” Roberts said, “there’s going to be some nerves, family is coming in from Kentucky but he’s going to go up there and compete.
Smith has had some minor injury issues which has led to Smith playing in 73 games in 2017 and 98 games last season.
Barnes placed on 10-day injured list with left groin strain
While the Dodgers were scoring their sixth run in the sixth inning yesterday, catcher Austin Barnes “tweaked” something in his left groin area. Barnes left the game after the top of the sixth with a reported “soreness” in his left groin.
The Dodgers placed Barnes on the 10-day injured list for his left groin strain which necessitated adding Will Smith to the roster today.
“In Austin’s words, it was a three out of ten as far as how much he’s felt it, Roberts said, “but the right thing for us, especially when you are talking about the groin area where it is so dynamic, that we are going to put him on the IL and I expect that once those ten days are up, I expect him to be active again.”
Barnes was perhaps just turning the corner this season. In the last two weeks, he played six games and hit .350./480/.450. For the month of May, in 15 games, Barnes had hit .273/.385/.432 with a .355 BABIP.
Receiving the ball continues to be one of Barnes’ strengths. He remains one of the better catchers in this category.
Dodgers on pace for one of their better first 54-game records since 1962
At 35 wins, the 2019 Dodgers are already tied with the 1981 team for the sixth most wins in the first 54 games in Los Angeles Dodger history. Just ahead are the 1977 and 2009 teams who each won 36 games.
The 1962 and 1983 Dodgers were a crackling 20 games over .500 with 37-17 records and the best 54-game start of the season went to the 1974 Dodgers which went 39-15 on their way to winning the National League pennant that year.
This, from @ESPNStatsInfo, does a good job of showing how good the Dodgers have been: They have won 66 percent of their games, lead the NL in ERA, rank second in runs, and their 62 defensive runs saved are 15 more than the next closest team.— Alden Gonzalez (@Alden_Gonzalez) May 27, 2019
Former Dodger Bill Buckner passes away at age 69
Earlier today it was reported that former Dodger Bill Buckner passed away at age 69 due to Lewy Body Dementia.
Bill Buckner passed away early the morning of May 27th surrounded by his family. Bill fought with courage and grit as he did all things in life. Our hearts are broken but we are at peace knowing he is in the arms of his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."— Jeremy Schaap (@JeremySchaap) May 27, 2019
Bill was 69.
Buckner was part of what many consider was the best draft year for any team. In 1968, in two phases of the draft, the Dodgers drafted and signed Steve Garvey, Ron Cey, Davey Lopes, Bill Buckner, Tom Paciorek and Doyle Alexander.
The Dodgers are saddened to hear about the passing of Bill Buckner, who died this morning after battling a long illness. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Buckner family. pic.twitter.com/yVEoEXfXx5— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) May 27, 2019
The 19-year old Buckner made his major league debut on September 21, 1969. He would play eight seasons with the Dodgers and his .289 career average in 3081 plate appearances ranks seventh for the Los Angeles Dodgers with at least 3000 plate appearances.
On January 11, 1977, the Dodgers traded Bill Buckner, Jeff Albert and Ivan De Jesus to the Chicago Cubs for Rick Monday and Mike Garman. Buckner would win the 1980 National League batting title with a .324 batting average. Buckner would also go on to play for the Boston Red Sox, California Angels and Kansas City Royals.
Unfortunately, Buckner is also remembered for being part of World Series history when a ground ball got by him which allowed the Mets to win Game Six of the 1986 World Series. That win only tied the series at three games apiece but perhaps it was because the Red Sox were so close to breaking “the curse” that some believe Buckner’s play lost that World Series.
However like Ralph Branca and Bobby Thompson, Mookie Wilson, who hit that ground ball and Buckner forged a friendship over the last number of years and would appear at card shows together.
This upcoming weekend will feature the Dodger alumni game and I am sure Bill Buckner will also be remembered at that time.