LOS ANGELES — In an interview with Dodger Talk’s David Vassegh on AM 570 LA Sports Friday night, Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes recounted the uncertainty he and teammates faced when Spring Training was suspended in Arizona earlier this month.
“It was a crazy day, that’s for sure,” said Barnes, who has returned to Southern California. “No precedent for anything like this. Everybody’s safety is obviously at the forefront of everybody’s mind, but it was shocking. We were building up momentum and all of a sudden it was an abrupt end. It was wild. It’s a crazy time right now.”
Initially, Barnes and most players were hopeful the suspension would be temporary.
“I was going to stay in Arizona," he said. "Some guys threw bullpens the last days, some guys just banged it. Nobody knew what was going to happen with the season. It was kind of out of the eye of the storm. But ever since the two-week quarantine, I had to go home. My wife was with me. If you’re going to be locked down for two weeks, home is a better place than Arizona.”
Barnes said his current workouts have been confined to his backyard, under the guidance of wife Nicole. He hasn’t heard of any plans for him to catch pitchers’ bullpen sessions.
“I don’t know if that’s even appropriate right now,” he said. “Social distancing or whatever we can do to help this thing. It stinks because you build up momentum and you’re ready to go, you’re firing away and all of a sudden they tell you to turn it back. But obviously you have to do the right thing. That’s on the back burner right now.”
When restrictions are lifted, Barnes agrees that decision makers will need to strike a balance between restarting games as quickly as possible, while giving pitchers enough of a buildup to assure their health.
“Position-player-wise it’s different — we can go pretty quickly,” he said. “The pitchers, I would think, need two or three starts, not real sure. Pitchers are the ones that are going to need Spring Training next time around more than anybody. I’m a fan of getting this thing started as soon as possible while it’s safe. Obviously, everybody’s safety is the No. 1 concern right now. Everybody wants baseball and sports back, but there’s a lot of uncertainty.”
Entering the spring, Barnes was figured to be the backup to young catcher Will Smith. But Smith’s offensive struggles in the Cactus League (.143 average, .518 OPS) were accompanied by manager Dave Roberts shifting his description of catching duties to “a partnership.”
“I was feeling good,” said Barnes, who was hitting .333 with a 1.033 OPS. “I worked hard in the offseason, just like everybody, but I felt I was in a good place on all sides of the ball. Offensively, I was seeing the ball well at the plate, fine-tuning some things. Behind the plate, get back in those relationships with the pitchers, felt good back there blocking, catching, throwing. I was having a good spring.”