LOS ANGELES ― Major League Baseball is branding this year’s All-Star Game as a return to Hollywood, where a certain Will Smith has been keeping a low profile ever since the Academy Awards.
Dave Roberts is hopeful another Will Smith gets a chance to slap some American League pitchers around soon. Asked who he felt should represent the Dodgers in the annual exhibition game featuring the sport’s best players, Roberts named his catcher first.
“I’m going to start with Will Smith,” Roberts said. “I’ve been pounding the table on Will Smith for a couple years now. I think he’s the best catcher in all of baseball. One of the most underrated players in the game.
“Then I’m going to go with Mookie (Betts), Freddie (Freeman) and Trea (Turner),” Roberts continued. “Their numbers don’t lie. Elite players. Popular players. And Tony Gonsolin.”
For five Dodgers to appear in the game, Roberts will need some help. MLB requires the game to feature at least one representative of all 30 teams. That includes any players who might be injured and unable to play on July 19.
Often, this requirement means deserving players on good teams will be snubbed in favor of lesser players from bad teams. For any team to have five representatives is somewhat rare, though the Boston Red Sox had five American League All-Stars last season.
Once fan balloting ends on July 8, players will be given a ballot to choose five starting pitchers, three relievers, and one position player. MLB itself chooses the final four pitchers and two position players, in addition to all injury replacements. Managers no longer have a say in the selection process.
Smith entered play Wednesday hitting .244 with a .350 on-base percentage and .411 slugging percentage. He ranked fifth among NL catchers in runs (24), RBIs (26) and home runs (seven).
HEANEY ON THE HORIZON
Andrew Heaney completed his minor league rehab assignment with Triple-A Oklahoma City on Tuesday, and the left-handed pitcher was en route to Los Angeles on Wednesday afternoon.
The Dodgers have not determined who will start Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Guardians. Heaney might be activated then, Roberts said.
Heaney allowed one run in 7⅓ innings across two rehab starts with OKC. Then on Tuesday he started for Double-A Tulsa and tossed five shutout innings, striking out nine batters and throwing 77 pitches.
If the Dodgers choose to give Heaney two extra days of rest – Monday is an off-day – Mitch White would be available to start Sunday against Cleveland on six days’ rest. The right-hander last pitched Sunday in Oklahoma City, throwing 5⅔ shutout innings.
The pitching matchups for Friday and Saturday’s games are already penciled in. The Guardians’ Zach Plesac will oppose Julio Urías on Friday. Cal Quantrill will oppose Clayton Kershaw on Saturday. Shane Bieber starts for Cleveland on Sunday.
Blake Treinen (shoulder) was able to throw on flat ground from up to 120 feet, Roberts said. His first appearance off a mound is possibly a couple of weeks away. … Umpire Nate Tomlinson, who was struck in the face by a broken bat shard on Tuesday night, was replaced by minor league call-up Alex MacKay.
The Dodgers have a day off Thursday.