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LA debut with Dodgers 'special' for Barajas

LA debut with Dodgers 'special' for Barajas

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LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers manager Joe Torre thought about starting catcher Brad Ausmus on Monday night at Dodger Stadium. Torre had looked at the matchups, and he saw Ausmus was 2-for-6 off Phillies right-hander Roy Halladay.

Ausmus, kindly, pointed out that those stats weren't exactly an accurate representation.

"A funny thing happened tonight," Torre said. "Ausmus just made sure that I knew that the 2-for-6 was before Halladay was sent to the Minor Leagues early in his career with Toronto."

Torre instead went with his new regular catcher, Rod Barajas, even though Barajas was 0-for-9 with two strikeouts off Halladay in his career (Torre said the low strikeout total was encouraging).

It was a good thing for Barajas just to be in the lineup: Born in Ontario, Calif., and raised in Norwalk, Calif., he had around 20 or so friends and family show up for his first-ever game at Dodger Stadium in a home uniform.

Barajas only joined the Dodgers, from the Mets via waivers, at the start of last week.

"I've got so much family here in the area that on any given night, somebody's going to be here," Barajas said before the game. "I've been looking forward to this for a long, long time."

Barajas' first at-bat didn't go well: He hit into a double play, although it did bring home a run. His next at-bat was cut short when Jamey Carroll was caught stealing at second base.

"I walked out before the game to get loose, and it was weird," Barajas said. "The butterflies were floating around. That first at-bat, my hands were shaking. I stepped out of the box and I'm like, 'Come on, you've done this before.' But that didn't work. I just needed to get that first at-bat out of the way."

Indeed.

On a 1-0 cutter leading off the fifth, Barajas hit his 15th homer of the season just over the wall in left, his third homer and sixth RBI in five games with the Dodgers. He's batting .438, 7-for-16, since leaving New York.

"He made the switch, I'm sure he's happy," Ausmus said of Torre's lineup change. "I'm saying I would've gone deep, too."

The home run, though, may have paled in comparison to the job Barajas did behind the plate. Hiroki Kuroda carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning and the Dodgers shut out the Phillies, whom they're chasing for the National League Wild Card, 3-0. It was just Barajas' second time catching Kuroda, for whom English is a second language.

"Talking to Russell [Martin] today, we talked a little bit and he helped out with signs," Barajas said. "Everybody's been great."

Four or five times a year, whenever he could get tickets, Barajas would come to Dodger Stadium as a kid. What he took part in Monday night topped it all.

"This is the biggest thing that ever happened for me in Dodger Stadium -- for me, personally, while I'm here," Barajas said, perhaps not wanting to step on Kirk Gibson's toes. "To be a part of a dominant pitching effort and be able to scrape one off the top of the fence off one of the best pitchers in baseball, it's definitely special. I don't think anybody in my family will ever forget this one."

Evan Drellich is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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