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Barnes' bat heating up battle for backup

March 13, 2017

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said at the Winter Meetings that it was Austin Barnes' time. The catcher, after a slow start to the spring, is making his bid to back up starter Yasmani Grandal.With A.J. Ellis traded last summer and Ellis' replacement, Carlos Ruiz, dealt away in

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said at the Winter Meetings that it was Austin Barnes' time. The catcher, after a slow start to the spring, is making his bid to back up starter Yasmani Grandal.
With A.J. Ellis traded last summer and Ellis' replacement, Carlos Ruiz, dealt away in the offseason, the back-up job is essentially Barnes' to lose, as he's on the 40-man roster and the other contender, veteran Bobby Wilson, is not.
"Nothing's ever been given to me, so I'm not taking anything for granted about the job," Barnes said. "The mindset is always to compete for a job."
The 27-year-old Barnes spent Monday's 3-1 win against the Angels competing, catching Kenta Maeda's seven strikeouts in 3 2/3 innings and, for the second consecutive start, slugging a home run.

"I like the swing," Roberts said. "Sometimes he can get a little bit long. But at the plate he knows how to conduct an at-bat. He's always hit. He's definitely trending in the right direction."
Barnes was batting just .167 without an extra-base hit until he homered Saturday. He didn't play in either split-squad game on Sunday, then homered against Angels starter Ricky Nolasco on Monday. He's now batting .208 with two homers and three RBIs.
Wilson is hitting .200 with one home run and two RBIs.
"[I'm] pretty confident in what I can bring to the table," the 33-year-old Wilson said. "I want to play. I'm not here to catch bullpens and sit on the sidelines. I'm here to help the Dodgers win a championship. Still have to win a job, and my career is always coming in as a non-roster guy and having to win a job. Nothing new for me.
"If they had said, 'You're slotted for Triple-A,' I would have gone elsewhere. It's a competition and they're giving me a chance to win a job and that's all I can ask for at this stage of my career."

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2001.