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Elbow feeling good, Barnes returns to catching

MLB.com @kengurnick

MESA, Ariz. -- Nearly two weeks into Cactus League games, the Dodgers are finally at full strength behind the plate.

Austin Barnes, on a throwing rehab program for a right elbow injured in offseason workouts, was back at catcher Tuesday in the Dodgers' 9-5 loss to the Cubs. Barnes rejoins Yasmani Grandal, whose bat has heated up after a cold start.

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MESA, Ariz. -- Nearly two weeks into Cactus League games, the Dodgers are finally at full strength behind the plate.

Austin Barnes, on a throwing rehab program for a right elbow injured in offseason workouts, was back at catcher Tuesday in the Dodgers' 9-5 loss to the Cubs. Barnes rejoins Yasmani Grandal, whose bat has heated up after a cold start.

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Spring Training information

Management often refers to the pair as "elite," in large part because they excel at stealing strikes with pitch framing and add solid offensive production. They figure to share duties this year, as they did last year when Grandal opened the season as the starter and Barnes finished it as one. Combined, they slugged 30 homers with 96 RBIs in 2017.

Barnes was tested in the third inning Tuesday when Javier Baez stole second base, the throw sailing well off the mark behind the runner. But Barnes said the elbow held up.

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"It felt good," said Barnes. "I just rushed the throw. It felt good to be out there. You can't really simulate the game. I don't think I'm far behind. Just little stuff about moving to the pitches, going to spots. Just haven't done it since last year. That's probably the biggest thing, just game action and managing the game."

Manager Dave Roberts said Barnes looked good behind the plate.

"We didn't want to extend him too much this spring," Roberts said. "In a couple days we'll get him back behind the plate. In between innings I thought he threw the ball well. On the stolen base, I thought he got a little too quick and lost it."

Offensively, neither catcher has torn up the Cactus League. Barnes, who had been serving as designated hitter, is only 1-for-11, but has put the ball in play (one strikeout) and hit two long fly balls against the Cubs, Jacob Hannemann robbing him of extra bases on the second one with a spectacular layout catch.

Grandal, entering his free-agent season, began Cactus League play 0-for-11 with seven strikeouts. But his bat has caught fire recently, going 3-for-8 with two homers and a double.

"Barnes has been really diligent," said Roberts. "We might have slow-played him longer than he would have liked, but the timing is perfect for us. With Yaz at the plate, he's staying in the strike zone and not trying to do too much and getting good results. His batting-practice work is considerably better, in my opinion."

Kyle Farmer (7-for-13) is the third-string catcher and Roberts also has praised Minor League catchers Keibert Ruiz and Will Smith, the Nos. 3 and 9 prospects in the organization as ranked by MLB Pipeline. Ruiz is 5-for-8 and Smith is 3-for-11 with a home run.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.

Los Angeles Dodgers, Austin Barnes, Yasmani Grandal