Young catcher in Indiana for Reds' final spring tuneup
By Matt Segal
Special to MLB.com |
INDIANAPOLIS -- Tucker Barnhart returned to his hometown on Saturday morning for the Cincinnati Reds' 13-6 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Reds catcher said his wife, parents and sister were in the crowd of 14,352 at Victory Field.
"I'm a little biased, but I think this is one of the better Minor League parks to play in," Barnhart said of the home of the Pirates-affiliated Triple-A Indianapolis Indians. "Being able to stay at home when I play here is nice, too. This game sold out quickly, so our tickets were pretty limited."
Barnhart grew up in Brownsburg, Ind., which sits approximately 20 miles west of downtown Indianapolis. He attended Brownsburg High School, where he was tabbed as an All-American and in 2009 was named Indiana's Mr. Baseball.
Brownsburg, which is home to one of Indiana's top high school baseball programs, has produced four current professional athletes. The list includes St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Lance Lynn, Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Drew Storen and Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward.
Devin Mesoraco, who had season-ending surgery on his left hip last June, is expected to be the Reds' Opening Day catcher, though he was a late scratch from Saturday's game with general soreness. Barnhart made the most of his start against the Pirates, recording three hits, including an RBI single in the Reds' seven-run third inning.
Reds manager Bryan Price feels comfortable with either Mesoraco or Barnhart behind the plate.
"I couldn't be happier to have Tucker on our club," Price said. "He's very involved in game planning. He talks to our pitchers between innings about what's working, what's not working and how to get outs. If anything happens to Devin or we need someone in a pinch, Tucker is there."
Barnhart, who has seen action in 102 big league games, will be working with a young pitching staff this season
"We're ready for the season to start," Barnhart said. "Spring Training gets a little long for the pitchers and catchers. We have a young group this year, but [it] should be fun to watch. We're going to score a lot of runs, and our pitching staff is going to grow together."
"We weren't anticipating those injuries, so we could be relying on a greater number of pitchers who we didn't necessarily expect to make the club out of Spring Training," Price said. "This is a period for our young guys to get acclimated, but we also need them to go out there and perform."
The Reds host the Philadelphia Phillies in their first regular-season game on Monday at 4:10 p.m. ET.
"There's nothing more special than hearing your name on Opening Day in Cincinnati," Barnhart added. "It gives you chills, and it's an exciting feeling. I was 23 when I made my big league debut. That experience at a relatively young age will certainly help me moving forward. I'm ready to help our team in any way possible."
Matt Segal is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.