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Font eager to impress in spring opener

Barnes not concerned with early limitations on throwing
MLB.com @kengurnick

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Friday's exhibition opener against the White Sox at Camelback Ranch provides an early opportunity for pitcher Wilmer Font to hit the Dodgers' front-office radar.

Font gets the first start in a Spring Training he hopes will lead to an Opening Day roster spot for the first time in 13 professional seasons, a journey that included three big league cameos and a detour through independent ball.

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Friday's exhibition opener against the White Sox at Camelback Ranch provides an early opportunity for pitcher Wilmer Font to hit the Dodgers' front-office radar.

Font gets the first start in a Spring Training he hopes will lead to an Opening Day roster spot for the first time in 13 professional seasons, a journey that included three big league cameos and a detour through independent ball.

Spring Training information

He was added to the 40-man roster last season after being the Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Year, racking up 178 strikeouts in 134 1/3 innings at Triple-A Oklahoma City. Font is finally out of options, so the Dodgers might be faced with a decision to keep him or lose him.

"Yeah, I'm really excited for tomorrow," the 27-year-old Venezuelan said Thursday. "I want to impress and show what I can do."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Font attributed his strikeout success last year to throwing his fastball up in the zone. He said his time in independent ball in 2015 and 2016 taught him to better game-plan individual hitters.

"It helped me more mentally than physically," he said.

Font will be followed to the mound by Yaisel Sierra, Pat Venditte, Daniel Corcino, C.C. Lee, Brian Moran and Edward Parades. Tyler Danish will take the ball for Chicago.

Taking it slow: Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes on Thursday downplayed the severity of right elbow tenderness that developed last month and has put him on a limited throwing program the first week of Spring Training workouts.

"I could play in a game tomorrow," said Barnes, although manager Dave Roberts said Barnes will serve as a designated hitter the first week of exhibition games that start Friday.

"Just being a little precautionary," Barnes said. "I threw to bases today. Feels good, coming out fine. Kind of tweaked it a little late in the offseason. I was doing some throwing to the bases, probably threw too much on my own. It was my fault. Trying to iron things out. Whatever they say is best for everybody."

Barnes said the discomfort is gone, but he would prefer to take it slow rather than aggravate it. He said he has tapered the workload without shutting down throwing completely.

Roberts said he is not concerned about Barnes' health for the season opener. Barnes emerged as the starter late last year when Yasmani Grandal tailed off. Barnes joins starting shortstop Corey Seager, who also is on a limited throwing program because of last year's elbow injury.

In other injury news: Left-handed reliever Tony Cingrani had a scheduled bullpen session for Thursday pushed back a day because of minor shoulder tightness. Cingrani is expected to pair with newcomer Scott Alexander as the top two lefties in the bullpen. Top prospect Walker Buehler threw off a mound Thursday for the second time and said he felt fine. He is behind schedule because of upper back discomfort that developed in January workouts.

Circle the date: Staff ace Clayton Kershaw will make his 2018 exhibition debut Sunday against the Mariners in Peoria. Kershaw, who threw a bullpen session Thursday, is scheduled to make his eighth consecutive Opening Day start against the Giants on March 29 at home.

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

Los Angeles Dodgers, Austin Barnes, Tony Cingrani, Wilmer Font