The Dodgers sent five more players to minor league camp at Camelback Ranch in their latest set of roster cuts after Wednesday night’s game against the Mariners.
Infielder Yonny Hernández and pitcher Justin Bruihl were optioned, while catchers Patrick Mazeika and David Freitas plus outfielder/first baseman Ryan Ward were reassigned to the minors.
Hernández getting sent down adds more clarity to the competition for the final position-player spot on the opening day roster. With Hernández sent down, only 12 healthy position players remain on the 40-man roster:
- Catchers: Will Smith, Austin Barnes
- Infielders: Freddie Freeman, Miguel Vargas, Miguel Rojas, Max Muncy
- Outfielders: Mookie Betts, David Peralta, Trayce Thompson, James Outman
- Infielder/outfielder: Chris Taylor
- Designated hitter: J.D. Martinez
With non-roster invitee Jason Heyward a lock to make the opening day roster, that would make 13 position players, if Outman makes the team. With Hernández sent down, his only realistic competition remaining in camp are a trio of non-roster invitees: defense-first outfielders Bradley Zimmer and Steven Duggar, or utility man Luke Williams, who has played shortstop and third base this spring, and has played both left field and right field in the majors and minors.
At first glance, while that might seem for an easy battle for Outman to win, it might come down to one of those three more suited for a reserve role if the Dodgers would prefer Outman to play every day in Triple-A. It’s worth noting that there’s a very simple way to both keep Outman and make sure he plays regularly — by making him the starting centerfielder.
Of course, the Dodgers could still acquire someone else to enter the mix, but how likely that is a week before opening day remains to be seen.
The other moves leave the Dodgers with three catchers remaining in camp, though it’s still possible to have backup backstops up from minor league camp to finish out games. Austin Barnes and Will Smith are both back from the World Baseball Classic, joining non-roster invitee Hunter Feduccia, whose 55 innings in Cactus League play leads Dodgers catchers in camp.
Barnes caught Wednesday night against the Mariners, and Dave Roberts told reporters earlier in the day — per SportsNet LA — that Smith would catch Thursday against the Diamondbacks, and would likely catch four more games this spring training.
Ward was a constant in camp, leading the team with 20 games played, including playing on each of the last 14 game days. Ward played first base, left field, and designated hitter this spring, and even started six Cactus League games, hitting .256/.356/.359.
The moves leave the Dodgers with 42 players remaining in camp, including 22 pitchers and 20 position players. But as we’ve noted before, with Gavin Lux, Tony Gonsolin, Alex Reyes, Daniel Hudson, and Jimmy Nelson still active but unlikely to be ready for opening day, the team effectively has 37 players left in camp.
That includes 10 non-roster invitees: three pitchers, and seven position players.