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Dodgers notes: Will Smith & rest, Tony Gonsolin facing hitters soon

Arizona Diamondbacks v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

LOS ANGELES — The Dodgers will send the same lineup against the Diamondbacks on Friday as they did Thursday, scoring eight runs. But expect some changes over the weekend, with other position players getting into the mix.

Manager Dave Roberts said Austin Barnes would catch Clayton Kershaw on Saturday, and expect right-handed batters Chris Taylor and Trayce Thompson to start against southpaw Madison Bumgarner. Roberts also said Jason Heyward, a left-handed hitter, will “get a start at some point soon.”

Barnes catching Saturday happens to lineup with Kershaw, though Roberts said he’s comfortable with either Smith or Barnes catching the left-hander. That was true last year as well, with Barnes catching 13 Kershaw starts and Smith behind the plate 10 times, including Game 2 of the NLDS.

Dodgers/D-backs lineups

D-backs Pos Dodgers Pos
D-backs Pos Dodgers Pos
Rojas (L) 3B Betts RF
Marte (S) 2B Freeman (L) 1B
Guerriel Jr. DH Smith C
Walker 1B Muncy (L) 3B
Carroll (L) LF Martinez DH
Moreno C Peralta (L) LF
McCarthy (L) RF Vargas 2B
Thomas (L) CF Outman (L) CF
Perdomo (S) SS Rojas SS
Dustin May vs. Merrill Kelly on the mound

Roberts said he didn’t want Smith catcher the first three days of the season since it’s something he hasn’t done since last season. During spring training, including his time playing for Team USA at the World Baseball Classic, Smith caught in a game on two consecutive days only once.

Finding rest for Smith isn’t as easy as last season, when he could be used as designated hitter in games he’s not catching, something he did 24 times last season. That’s less of an option this year with J.D. Martinez the regular DH, so when Smith isn’t catching it’s more likely to be a true off day, at least to begin the game.

The Dodgers have to balance keeping one of their three best hitters in the lineup, while also making sure Smith gets rest.

“Absolutely it’s hard to get Will out of the lineup,” Roberts said. “But understanding, we’ve got to keep him sharp, fresh, and I feel Austin needs to play, too, and I feel very good with him behind the plate.”

The most common days to plan rest for Smith is when a day game follows a night game, as that’s a back-to-back combination tough on anyone, but especially catchers. So it’s just a matter of picking which of the two games Smith sits, and this weekend that fell on Saturday.

Pitching updates

Tony Gonsolin threw a bullpen season of about 30 pitches on Thursday, and did spring work at Dodger Stadium Friday. Up next for the right-hander is another bullpen session on Sunday in Los Angeles, then if all goes well, he’ll face hitters at Camelback Ranch in Arizona.

Gonsolin will eventually likely need minor league rehab starts before returning as he stretches out his workload. Earlier this week, Roberts said a late April return to the Dodgers is the hope.

The timetable for Ryan Pepiot’s return from a strained left oblique isn’t yet known, though those injuries are generally longer than a 15-day IL stint. Michael Grove will start Monday, but how long he remains in the rotation remains to be seen.

“Some of it has to do with performance. Some of it has to do with the roster and where we’re at with that,” Roberts said. “But I think two to three starts is pretty safe.”

The Dodgers only have three off days in April, so they don’t have much maneuverability to skip a spot in the rotation. Pure speculation here, but perhaps the stretch of 19 games in 20 days after April 13 might be a time of heavy bullpen use, if the Dodgers try cycle through a few fifth starters, using the interim to use the roster spot for an extra bullpen arm.