LOS ANGELES — Will Smith is the designated hitter on Saturday, his second straight night at the position after getting activated off the concussion injured list. He will catch for the Dodgers on Sunday afternoon to finish out the Cardinals series, and likely again on Monday night against the Phillies.
“As far as the concussion protocols, all that stuff is behind us, and then it’s a question of how we feel about the body bouncing back,” manager Dave Roberts said. “The thought of having him catch the day game, to then have the time to recover for the night game, I feel good about him doing that. From there, we’ll read and react.”
Picking Sunday for Smith to catch was a combination of giving him an extra day before returning behind the plate — his last game caught was April 12 — and to have him catch Noah Syndergaard, who is the worst pitcher in baseball at holding runners, allowing a league-high nine steals this season.
“Will is our best thrower, so to be paired with Noah is probably a good thing,” Roberts said. “With that said, they’re still going to take chances regardless of who’s behind the plate.”
Opposing runners are eight for eight trying to steal against Smith this season, six of those swipes coming with Syndergaard on the mound. Austin Barnes has thrown out one of 27 runners trying to steal this season. Though using only throws to second base, Smith and Barnes rate only slightly below average using Baseball Savant’s catcher throwing metric, with Dodgers pitchers giving their catchers almost no time to throw anyone out.
Austin Wynns, the third catcher on the active roster at the moment, has thrown out seven of nine would-be stealers.
The DH spot
J.D. Martinez was placed on the injured list Friday with lower back tightness after missing all three games in Pittsburgh. The move was retroactive to Tuesday, so the earliest Martinez could return is next Friday against the Padres in San Diego.
But for now the Dodgers are playing it slow with Martinez, who mentioned Friday that he’s waiting for inflammation to subside.
“He’s laying low. We just felt that since we made the decision to put him on the IL, we’ll take the time to put [the back injury] to bed,” Roberts said. “I don’t know when he’s going to swing a bat.”
While Martinez is out, the DH spot is more open, like the Dodgers have used it in recent years. Roberts said Smith could see starts at DH when facing left-handed starting pitcher. That’s the case on Saturday facing Jordan Montgomery of the Cardinals, and the Dodgers will face Phillies left-hander Matt Strahm on Tuesday.
Roberts also mentioned Jason Heyward, David Peralta, and “some left-handed hitter” filling in at designated hitter while Martinez is out. Michael Busch fits that bill while he’s on the active roster.