MESA, Ariz. — The Dodgers have been saying it for years now – with the World Baseball Classic only confirming their contention – that they have the best catching duo in baseball.
Will Smith and Austin Barnes are off to chase glory on the world stage, with Smith set to pick up significant time behind the plate for Team USA and Barnes expected to be the main catcher for Team Mexico.
The situation leaves the Dodgers without a main catcher in camp just three weeks before the regular season. And if both players have their wish, they won’t be back for some time as the chase a WBC title.
“I think if you look at the catching (around baseball) as far as the net of run prevention, (production) in the batter’s box, taking down at that position 650 plate appearances, catching that many innings, I just don’t see any duo better,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “Yeah, it speaks to both of those guys getting to play for Team USA and Team Mexico. It certainly speaks to our catching situation here.”
With both players away, it has created a unique scenario where the rest of the depth chart will be able to play late in the spring as pitchers move closer to what their workload will be once the regular season arrives.
Patrick Mazeika, 29, received the start Wednesday against the Mariners and guided the pitching staff to six scoreless innings. Mazeika made his long-awaited major-league debut in 2021 with the New York Mets while playing 37 games, then played 24 more games with the Mets last season.
In Thursday’s game against the Oakland Athletics, David Freitas received the start behind home plate. Freitas, 33, has 59 games of major-league experience over the past three seasons with the Mariners, Braves and Brewers.
Also getting playing time in Cactus League games will be Hunter Feduccia, a 25-year-old 12th-round draft pick in 2018, and the No. 1 catcher in waiting, Diego Cartaya, a 21-year-old from Venezuela who played in the Futures Game during All-Star week at Dodger Stadium last season.
“It’s an awesome opportunity we get to get to know the pitchers a little more, being around the team and being more involved,” said Feduccia, who played 40 games at Triple-A last season. “This is my third major-league camp and the first two I had two or three games I would play in the spring, so I’m getting a lot more this go around.”
While Cartaya is projected to be in Los Angeles eventually, the Dodgers are in no hurry to rush his arrival. But his chances to play over the next few weeks could enhance his arrival prospects.
“This is his first camp and he is a young player who has a long way to go in all aspects, as he should,” Roberts said. “To kind of get a better look in the next week to 10 days will be a great experience for him. And to his credit, this entire camp, he has approached it with eyes and ears wide open which is good to see.”
In 95 games in the Single-A level last season, split between Rancho Cucamonga and Great Lakes, Cartaya batted .298 with an .892 OPS, 22 home runs and 72 RBIs.
SLIGHT PROGRESS FOR GONSOLIN
Swelling has subsided in Tony Gonsolin’s sprained left ankle, with Roberts still hesitant to say the progress is a sign his right-hander will be on the Opening Day roster after all. Gonsolin rolled his ankle during a workout Monday and missed his scheduled start Wednesday.
Gonsolin was scheduled to have a simulated throwing session Thursday, but it was not believed to be anything strenuous.
“I’m going to kind of hold right now,” Roberts said when asked if Gonsolin might be able to make his first start of the regular season. “I don’t want to make that assessment yet. I’m still hopeful.”
Gonsolin was 16-1 last season with a 2.14 ERA, and was named an All-Star for the first time, but missed over a month late in the season with a right forearm strain.
Clayton Kershaw will make his first Cactus League start Friday against the Angels at Glendale. …
After throwing to batters for the first time this spring Wednesday, right-hander Yency Almonte (elbow) is set to appear in his first Cactus League game Saturday against the Giants at Scottsdale. …
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Non-roster invitee Luke Williams received the start at shortstop Thursday as he became the latest to fill the Gavin Lux void this spring. Williams has 137 games of major-league experience over the past two seasons with the Giants, Phillies and Marlins, while starting just two of those games at shortstop. …
Roberts said he has no plans to attend WBC games in Phoenix, but will be watching on television. Left-hander Victor Gonzalez has clearance to get in some early work and attend Team Mexico’s opener vs. Colombia on Saturday afternoon in Phoenix, with teammate Julio Urías scheduled to be on the mound for Mexico.