Roberts to utilize Kershaw-Barnes 'synergy'

September 18th, 2020

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts is resistant to committing a starting pitcher to one catcher, but that’s what he’s doing with ace and .

“I don’t love it,” Roberts said on Friday, "but if you’re looking at the postseason with the games that we play every day, you’re not going to have Will [Smith] catch five or seven games in a row. So it’s kind of smart to have Austin in there with Clayton."

Smith, with a 1.012 OPS, holds a clear offensive advantage over backup Barnes (.687), but Roberts said Barnes will catch Kershaw on Saturday. Roberts didn’t say that will continue in the postseason, but he didn’t say it wouldn’t, either. Roberts said he’s giving Smith a few days to recover from catching three successive games.

“The synergy that [Kershaw] and Austin have, I think, is real,” said Roberts. “You’ve got to certainly appreciate it. They have history. This is a four-year history that they’ve built a relationship. They think along the same lines. The last time Will caught Clayton in Arizona and Clayton just wasn’t good, it didn’t matter who was catching him. But I still believe the body of work Austin and Clayton have, there’s something to it.”

In the Arizona game on Sept. 9, with Smith catching, Kershaw was charged with four runs (three earned) in five innings, and he walked two of the first seven batters while letting a two-run lead get away. His next start in San Diego on Monday, with Barnes catching, Kershaw threw five scoreless innings before allowing Trent Grisham’s home run, and the defense unraveled the next inning.

That Arizona game is the only one of Kershaw’s starts caught by Smith, and in that small sample Kershaw had a 5.40 ERA, a .211 batting average against, a .641 OPS against and a 1.20 WHIP.

With Barnes behind the plate in seven starts, Kershaw has a 1.91 ERA, .166 batting average against, a .527 OPS against and a 0.732 WHIP.

Roberts said earlier this week that he would keep Smith’s hot bat in the lineup as designated hitter during the postseason when Barnes catches.

Worth noting
• It's still unclear who will bat DH on Saturday. Justin Turner was out of Friday’s lineup, but Roberts indicated it was just a day off and that Turner would return to the lineup on Saturday, probably as designated hitter. Turner has played in four games as designated hitter since returning from the injured list with a strained left hamstring.

• The Dodgers activated right-handed pitcher Mitch White from the taxi squad and optioned Josh Sborz to the alternate training site for the fifth time this year. Sborz pitched 1 1/3 hitless innings on Thursday night.