Dodgers Injuries: So…About That Catching Depth

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I was pretty shocked on Monday when I found out that A.J. Ellis, not Yasmani Grandal, was placed on the 15-day disabled list. After Grandal was hit hard on the jaw when a foul ball hit him on the lower part of his face mask, and catcher Austin Barnes was recalled from triple-A Oklahoma City, I assumed Yaz was feeling the effects of the jawbreaker and was hitting the D.L. Little did we know, A.J. Ellis had injured his knee trying to stretch out to catch a foul bunt behind the plate after coming in for Grandal during Sunday’s win over the Nationals.

Two birds with one stone. I remember cringing when A.J. dove for that ball since it was almost immediately following Yasmani’s incident, but A.J. seemed fine enough afterward. Later on, Ellis felt something in his knee on the plane to Atlanta, and had to undergo an MRI on his right knee. Thankfully the MRI showed no structural damage, but in one fateful turn of events, the Dodgers essentially lost both of their catchers at least temporarily.

Yasmani Grandal, on pain medication for his sore jaw, was able to pinch-hit on Monday and even came up with a single in the top of the ninth inning for the Dodgers. Yasmani should be well enough to play Tuesday or Wednesday, but this double dose of catcher boo boos has really put a spotlight on just how important catching depth is for the Dodgers or any team for that matter. If an outfielder or infielder is banged up, Don Mattingly can afford to rest them on the bench for a few games if necessary, but you just can’t do that with catchers.

The front office’s acquisition of catcher Austin Barnes was probably one of the most important moves that Andrew Friedman has made in order to bolster the Dodgers catching depth. After losing a slew of catchers throughout the organization this offseason and going years without a top caliber catcher (Ramon Hernandez anyone?), the Dodgers finally acquired some solid catching corps in Yasmani Grandal and Austin Barnes.

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Yasmani Grandal, who has been such an integral part of this Dodger team not only behind the plate but also at the plate, already lost a week to a concussion earlier this season. Luckily x-rays were negative on his jaw, but losing the switch-hitting backstop for any length of time could be detrimental to this club. Not to forget that Zack Greinke is in the midst of a historic scoreless inning streak which has been partly due to Yasmani’s excellent pitch framing as his battery mate.

Austin Barnes was recalled from OKC for the second time this season, and collected two hits and a run during the frustrating 7-5 loss to the Braves on a rainy Monday night in Hotlanta. The converted catcher could very well be the backup to Yasmani Grandal next season. Although Clayton Kershaw lobbied for his buddy A.J. in the offseason, I could see A.J. transitioning into a coaching role in the future.

The Dodgers were precariously close to having Kiké Hernandez put on the catching gear on Sunday, and should Yasmani and A.J. not be healthy enough to play…well…hello Shawn Zarraga or Hunter Redman. (Ralph Henriquez is currently on the 7-day D.L. with the OKC Dodgers).

In double-A, the Tulsa Drillers have catchers Kyle Farmer and Ali Solis. In single-A Rancho Cucamonga, there are catchers Austin Chubb and Webster Rivas. I had a chance to see Chubb and Rivas at Rancho Cucamonga on Saturday evening, and you can get a fun glimpse of the rainy day in Rancho in my video below.

The bottom line is that Yasmani Grandal is extremely important to the success of this 2015 Dodgers team, and good catching is really difficult to find. The new front office finally added the best catcher since Russell Martin to the team with Yasmani, and the deal which brought Austin Barnes over from Miami has turned out to be even more important after Ellis’s knee injury.

Even though the saying goes “you can never have enough pitching,” I think the same can be said about catching.

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