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Rod Barajas' play could make him more than one-month rental for Dodgers

September 4, 2010 |  8:35 pm

Barajas_300 So what if he’s living the dream? If he feels like he’s more floating than walking?

Catcher Rod Barajas gets all that. Rain on somebody else’s parade. He’s is so dizzily happy being a Dodger, he just can’t wait to pull on the uniform and go play.

Give him a bat, throw him a pitch, see what happens. Which normally precedes a lot of smiling. Ear-to-ear stuff that would make the Joker proud.

At age 34, Barajas is a kid again. Back in his hometown, playing on the team he grew up cheering for, and right now, making the most of it.

Since Barajas was picked up on waivers from the Mets on Aug. 22, he has played more like Johnny Bench than Johnny Journeyman.

In his first eight games with the Dodgers, Barajas has hit four home runs with eight runs batted in and hit .375.

The former star at Santa Fe High and Cerritos College has played so well, he is becoming the Dodgers’ everyday catcher.

"He’s swinging the bat really well for us," said Manager Joe Torre. "We’re going to ride him as hard and long as we can."

He’s playing so well, that despite his age, he is playing himself into consideration for returning next season.

"I think what you see now, you have to take seriously," Torre said. "He’s been around awhile. It’s not like he’s come out of the woodwork. Early in the year he hit a bunch of home runs for the Mets.

"He’s always been dangerous. You make a bad pitch on him, he’s home-run dangerous. He certainly seems excited to be here. So we’ll see."

Barajas is a Dodger because regular starter Russell Martin suffered a hip injury so severe that it ended his season. And with a labral tear a unique injury for a catcher, the Dodgers will be making their best guess on whether he can return behind the plate.

Dodgers trainer Stan Conte said if the hip continues to heal as it currently is, "Then there’s no reason to think he won’t be able to catch again."

Still, there remains a bit of unknown with Martin. And it’s not like he was tearing it up this season, anyway. He was batting .248 with only five home runs and 26 RBIs in 331 at-bats.

Barajas picked up his four home runs in just 24 at-bats. A free agent at the end of the season, he’s making the Dodgers consider him as something more than just a last-month waiver pickup.

"Absolutely," said General Manager Ned Colletti. "He’s done nothing to discourage us. He’s from the area. He loves being here. Obviously a short scope, but he’s clearly played well. He has a history that shows a lot of positives."

Barajas seems giddy simply being a Dodger. Each game brings new excitement, more disbelief turned into unexpected reality.

"I’m not going to lie, I’ve been smiling since Day 1," Barajas said. "Just being able to come out here and be productive, it’s been great.

"We’ve played some great games. And when you win, it’s a lot of fun. To be able to win as part of the Dodgers, I’ve been smiling non-stop.’’

Martin is making $5.05 million this year and arbitration eligible at the end of the season, which means he would be in line for a raise despite a two-year decline.

The Dodgers have to offer him a one-year contract before Dec. 12 to go into arbitration. They can sign him to a figure less than last year’s contract before then, or simply not offer him a contract at all and allow him to become a free agent.

--Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Catcher Rod Barajas talks to bench coach Bob Schaefer after a 3-0 victory over the Phillies last week. Credit: Kirby Lee / US Presswire

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