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Mechanical tweak yields results for Barnhart

@m_sheldon
May 12, 2019

SAN FRANCISCO -- Reviewing the mechanics of throwing isn’t exclusively the work of pitchers. Catchers are doing it too, and recent efforts by Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart paid off during a big play in Saturday’s 5-4 victory. Barnhart was working this past week with third-base/catching coach J.R. House and assistant

SAN FRANCISCO -- Reviewing the mechanics of throwing isn’t exclusively the work of pitchers. Catchers are doing it too, and recent efforts by Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart paid off during a big play in Saturday’s 5-4 victory.

Barnhart was working this past week with third-base/catching coach J.R. House and assistant pitching coach Caleb Cotham. It started earlier on the road trip at Oakland.

“I’ve never really broken down my throwing, as far as mechanics are concerned,” Barnhart said on Sunday. “We had some high-speed cameras out the other day, and [I] talked a lot with Caleb and with J.R. to try and maximize my arm strength and try to get as much out of my arm as possible.”

Runners were on first and second base with one out in the sixth with the scored knotted at 4 on Saturday when Steven Duggar tried to steal third base. Barnhart made a perfect throw to Eugenio Suárez for the out. It did look like Duggar may have beaten the tag, and the Giants challenged the call. Upon review, officials decided that it stands.

Regardless, it was a good throw, and it turned the inning around as reliever Amir Garrett got out of the jam.

“Obviously, it was very close. Tucker made a perfect throw,” Reds manager David Bell said. “He’s been working hard on his throwing, on his defense. As good as he’s been his whole career, he continues to get better.”

The video showed, and the coaches felt, that Barnhart’s previous way of throwing was hindering his velocity.

“If I come up to throw, the ball would be back, and my glove would get above my face and cause my back to arch,” Barnhart explained. “You’re going to arch your back when you throw. It’s about when you do it, I guess. What I’m trying to do is keep my glove under my face. It syncs up my body and allows me to make a stronger throw.”

The sample size is small so far this season as Statcast has tracked eight throws for Barnhart. He’s averaging a 2.05 second pop time to second base, which is slightly slower than his 2018 time of 2.03 and this year’s MLB average of 2.01. For context, Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto leads the Majors with a 1.86 average pop time to second base.

“We were timing my throws to second on the first day here, and the times were better,” Barnhart said. “My release time was good, and my overall pop time was better than it has been. It’s a step in the right direction.”

Scary moment turns out OK
Moments before Barnhart made his play, Duggar blooped a fly ball to short left-center field, where Jesse Winker and Nick Senzel collided as both tried to make a diving catch. Duggar wound up with a single, and both Reds outfielders appeared to be hurt, initially. Bell was certainly worried as he and two trainers ran out onto the field.

“But when I got out there, they were just joking around,” Bell said. “I was relieved. I was like, ‘Alright, I guess I can run back in now.’”

Rotation change
The Reds revealed that they adjusted their rotation to have Tanner Roark start on Tuesday vs. the Cubs on his normal rest after Monday’s scheduled off-day. That moved Sonny Gray back one more day to Wednesday.

Gray’s past two starts have been lackluster while Roark has been strong.

“Tanner’s been locked in, and we’re keeping him on normal rest,” Bell said. “With the off-days coming up, he’s also going to get extra rest. His next two starts will be on regular rest. He’s got a six-day after that.

“It gives Sonny an extra day. We’re constantly looking at each starter and saying, ‘Where are they? Could they use an extra day?’ With all of these off-days coming up, we’re just trying to see how we can do what’s best for each guy. Sonny is fine, but we thought [we should give him] an extra day in this case.”

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook.