Cincinnati Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart dealing well with bigger role


Reds at Phillies, 7:05 p.m., FS Ohio, 700, 1410

Catcher Tucker Barnhart played Blackjack with a couple of teammates on Wednesday in the Cincinnati Reds clubhouse before a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. The game of luck had little to do with the game of skill Barnhart would play three hours later at Great American Ball Park.

In one respect, the Reds are one of the luckiest teams in baseball. According to the Pythagorean Theorem of Baseball, the Reds (14-19) had two more victories than they should have in their first 33 games based on runs scored (135) and runs allowed (187). Of course, anyone following the Reds knows how unlucky they have been on the injury front.

Devin Mesoraco’s season-ending shoulder injury opened the door for Barnhart to earn regular playing time for the first time in his big league career. Barnhart split time with Brayan Pena when Mesoraco hurt his hip a year ago. Since Mesoraco’s last start on April 27, Barnhart has started nine of 11 games.

Barnhart hit .200 in the first seven games in May after hitting .308 in April, but his value goes beyond his hitting numbers. He has had to handle a young pitching rotation and struggling bullpen.

“You just have to learn each other’s mentalities and learn the differences,” he said. “Situationally, how do they like to pitch? Do they come right after guys when guys are on base? You’ve got to find out what pitch for a guy is his go-to pitch if he needs an out, if he need a groundball. Is it a slider, a change?”

Manager Bryan Price called Barnhart a defense-first catcher. He has thrown out eight runners stealing, which ranks third in baseball. He has one passed ball and one error.

“He goes back there and we don’t miss a beat,” Price said. “We pick up where Devin left off. They’re both so good in their preparation. He takes the field extremely prepared. He’s very invested in the defensive side of the game. He’s as good of a catcher in blocking as anybody I’ve seen. And the offense just ends up being kind of a nice little bit of a cherry on the top of the dessert right there.”