Catcher Tucker Barnhart not just a placeholder for Reds


Reds manager Bryan Price doesn’t focus on the stat sheet this early. Nor does he fret over the team’s Cactus League record.

“I like to settle in and get into the middle of the spring training schedule before I start making too many assessments,” Price said. “What I really look for is demeanor.”

RELATED: Lorenzen says Reds just need to believe

Impressions made in spring training can go a long way. Take catcher Tucker Barnhart, who was pressed into duty when Devin Mesoraco went on the disabled list in 2014. Barnhart made the opening-day roster, but he had caught Price’s eye the previous spring.

“You could see his ability to control the game behind the plate,” Price said.

Barnhart played a lot of baseball growing up in Brownsburg, Ind., 16 miles from Indianapolis. At Brownsburg High School he caught current teammate Drew Storen for two seasons. That high school has also produced Cardinals starter Lance Lynn and Gordon Hayward of the NBA’s Utah Jazz.

“We had some good teams,” Barnhart said. “We didn’t win any state championships or anything but we had some good times.”

RELATED: Reds farm system moves up in the rankings

One of the smaller catchers in the big leagues at 5-foot-8, Barnhart is a switch hitter and a natural left-handed batter. He played middle infield as a youngster.

“Catching just fell into my lap,” Barnhart said. “I can’t run. I’m not fast by any means so that gave way to catching. I took a love to it. I’m in every play. That makes it fun. I enjoy being the quarterback of the team, kind of.”

His father, Kevin, a teacher, played baseball at Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis. He influenced Tucker to hit from the right side.

“I wanted to try it,” Barnhart said. “My dad taught me how. It’s still a work in progress. I get most of my at-bats from the left side. I think that helps that I get most of my at-bats from my natural side. I’m still working on my swing from the right side.”

Barnhart didn’t think about playing in the majors back then.

“My ultimate goal was to go to college,” said Barnhart, who opted for the amateur draft over attending Georgia Tech. “I was so focused on getting a scholarship that I wasn’t really focused on pro baseball, though obviously that was ideally my goal all along. I didn’t see it for me until I was finished choosing what college I wanted to go to.”

RELATED: Prospect Jesse Winker eager to compete for roster spot

But Barnhart signed with the Reds out of high school after they drafted him in the 10th round and made it worth his while financially. His journey through the farm system was quick, including a stint in Dayton, where in 2011 he anchored the last Dragons team to make the Midwest League playoffs.

Barnhart’s numbers have improved every year, his batting average graduating from .185 in 2014 to .252 in 2015 and .257 last season with a career-high seven home runs and 51 RBIs in a career-high 115 games. His defense and ability to call games have always been first-rate.

Mesoraco is being brought along slowly this spring after shoulder and hip surgeries, so Barnhart is expected to do the bulk of the catching early in the season. While he may not catch 115 games, he will play more than the typical backup.

“There is nothing that Tucker has done for me to have any thoughts of him as merely a second catcher,” Price said.

Mahle impresses: Pitcher Tyler Mahle, another former Dragon and the Reds’ seventh pick in the 2013 draft, has left a positive impression on Price.

“He comes in, gives up a leadoff single, there’s a popup on the infield, we’re not able to make a play on,” Price said, referencing a recent outing. “He strikes out the next hitter on a 97-mph pitch, the highest velocity pitch of the game. Then he gives up a home run on a change-up to a little left-handed hitter from Arizona. He got the next two guys out. His presence made him look like he belonged here. At no point was there a suggestion that he was going to stop competing or that he didn’t trust his stuff.”

Mahle was 13-8 with a 2.43 ERA at Dayton in 2015. Last year he was 14-3 with a 3.64 ERA for Daytona and Pensacola.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Sports

Joey Votto on current state of Reds: ‘Something has to start changing and going in a different direction’
Joey Votto on current state of Reds: ‘Something has to start changing and going in a different direction’

Who is that fat man on first base? Reds first baseman Joey Votto thought more of him was better. “I tried to get fatter (over the offseason) and I succeeded at that apparently,” Votto said after taking his physical on Sunday as position players reported for spring training. “We did all the tests and I’m fatter.” The five-time...
Dayton women two spots out of top 25
Dayton women two spots out of top 25

A 15-game winning streak has moved the Dayton Flyers two spots closer to the top 25 in the Associated Press women’s basketball poll. Dayton received 29 points in voting Monday. It’s two spots out of the top 25. It’s just behind Minnesota, the only other team receiving votes left out of the top 25. Both trail No. 25 Oklahoma State...
Wright State’s Love wins another HL Freshman of the Week honor
Wright State’s Love wins another HL Freshman of the Week honor

The Loudon Love award train keeps on rolling with Monday’s announcement the Wright State center is the Horizon League Freshman of the Week for the seventh time this season. Love led the Raiders to a 69-67 victory against Northern Kentucky on Friday to move WSU back into a first-place tie with the Norse. ›› Benzinger to hit the Nutter...
Penn State recruiting: Top 12 Pennsylvania prospects in next class
Penn State recruiting: Top 12 Pennsylvania prospects in next class

Dayton gets second chance against Saint Louis on Tuesday
Dayton gets second chance against Saint Louis on Tuesday

The Dayton Flyers have leaned heavily on their starters in recent weeks because, as coach Anthony Grant said Saturday, they give them the best chance to win. Saint Louis, Dayton’s opponent at 9 p.m. Tuesday at UD Arena, also has asked its starters to play major minutes. Unlike Dayton, it has no other choice. The Billikens have seven scholarship...
More Stories