Originally published by DodgerBlue.com
The Los Angeles Dodgers dealt with a multitude of injuries last season that tested how good their depth was as they tried to repeat as World Series champions
L.A. ended up using 37 different pitchers throughout the season, with some staying on the roster the entire year and others making an appearance or two and before being replaced.
The one constant was their pair of backstops, Will Smith and Austin Barnes, who had to manage and learn each pitcher so they could get on the same page with all of them.
While that has the potential to be overwhelming for any catcher, Smith explained communication with each pitcher and the coaching staff were key, via the “Unfinished with Anderson Miller” podcast:
“It’s having the conversations pregame with the pitching coaches. ‘Hey, what does he do well? What does he not do well?’ Then having the conversation with that pitcher, whether it be two minutes before the game or something when they come in. ‘Hey, what do you throw? What do you do well? What do you not do well?’ So it’s just kind of taking what you’ve got, mashing it up against what the hitter can do and what they can’t do well, and just trying to figure it out. Just go one pitch at a time and not think about, ‘Oh man. This is my 35th pitcher.’ It’s just, ‘What pitch do we need to throw right here?’”
While Smith is already one of the best catchers in baseball, he is not done improving. The 26-year-old has been gaining confidence on how to handle a pitching staff, especially one with so many star talents such as the Dodgers.
Smith said he feels like he is decent at managing a pitching staff but that he is also still trying to learn a lot, noting the skill comes with time.
Since his MLB debut on May 28, 2019, Smith ranks first in wRC+ (135) and wOBA (.373), second in on-base percentage (.365) and slugging (.527), and fourth in batting average (.262) and home runs (48) among catchers with at least 800 plate appearances.
Smith balances routine and flexibility
As Smith continues to learn more about life as a Major Leaguer every season, he has also discovered the importance of having a routine.
However, Smith also doesn’t want his routine to control everything he does as he finds the right balance of being open to changes but also keeping some consistency.
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