Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes had to leave Thursday’s game in the seventh inning after a play at home plate with C.J. Cron.
Jimmy Nelson threw a pair of run-scoring wild pitches in the inning. The second one ricocheted off the backstop back to Barnes, who raced to then dove at home plate to tag Cron, who scored safely and spiked Barnes on his right hand in the process.
Barnes left the game, with Will Smith catching the final two innings.
“Initially he was scared. It was his throwing hand, and he got a hand full of spikes,” manager Dave Roberts said after the game. “The hand has some cuts, but he’s going to be fine.”
Roberts said Barnes was hit on the fat part of the hand, and didn’t require any additional tests. Barnes is still expected to start behind the plate on Saturday, in Walker Buehler’s first start of the season.
Down three runs in the ninth inning, Smith was hit by a pitch to load the bases with one out. Zach McKinstry, who doubled and scored in the eighth inning, was lifted in favor of pinch-hitter Matt Beaty, who bats left-handed like McKinstry. The move left the Dodgers with one position player remaining on the bench — right-hander AJ Pollock.
Beaty watched three called strikes from Daniel Bard, ranging from 97.7 to 98.6 mph, for the second out of the frame. The Dodgers lost the opener, 8-5.
“I like Matt against high velocity,” Roberts said after the game. “Zach put a good at-bat the at-bat prior, but in that sense I really loved the matchup [with Beaty].”
In 2019, Dodgers pinch-hitters averaged 1.90 plate appearances per game, compared to just 0.68 in 2020. Beaty was tied for the second-most pinch-hitting appearances in 2019, with 32, going 8-for-30 with a double, a home run, and two walks, hitting .267/.313/.400 in that role as a rookie.
With no designated hitter in the National League this year, there will be more chances for pinch-hitters, and with pitchers hitting there will likely be more opportunities for double switching, which is how McKinstry was brought into the game with Nelson in the seventh inning, replacing Gavin Lux at second base.
The starter relievers
The Dodgers are carrying eight starting pitchers on a 13-man pitching staff to start the season, which means three usual starters — David Price, Tony Gonsolin, and Nelson — will be used in relief. Roberts said he’s open to using any of the three in high-leverage moments, or length if needed, even potentially closing out a game with a longer stint if the situation arises.
Roberts said he’s more likely to use Price or Gonsolin in extended outings of three or four innings than he is Nelson, who pitched on Thursday. Nelson walked two of his five batters faced, allowed a double and threw two wild pitches, allowing two runs, while recording two outs. It was his first major league game since September 29, 2019.
At times that trio could, ahem, provide relief for the rest of the bullpen, if one of Price, Gonsolin, or Nelson can eat some innings in a particular game. But unlike the other five, let’s call them standard relievers, none of those three will be used in back-to-back days, at least for now.
“It’s a lot more freeing, because there’s more length to be had, and protection of other guys,” Roberts said. “Those three in particular, the off days ensuing we’ll kind of follow them, and tell them to be offline after their outing.”
Trevor Bauer makes his Dodgers debut on Friday night, a 5:40 p.m. PT start on SportsNet LA, facing Rockies right-hander Antonio Senzatela.