Third on depth chart, Barnhart knows he must be ready
Reds catching prospect made debut in '14 with Mesoraco sidelined
CINCINNATI -- Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart's home in Indianapolis is around 100 miles from Great American Ball Park. The February weather is about the same as it is in Cincinnati, leaving Barnhart to see similar gray skies and the feel of winter's chill.
That makes the pull of Spring Training only stronger. Barnhart will head to Arizona on Wednesday, ahead of the Feb. 18 reporting date for Reds pitchers and catchers to be at the team complex in Goodyear.
"I'm trying to get things going," Barnhart said Monday. "Being in the cold weather gets you itching a little bit more to get outside and get playing. I'm excited to see everybody. Reds Caravan and Redsfest gets you into that mode, but once Spring Training rolls around, it's all systems go."
Barnhart, 24, is once again third on the team depth chart behind primary catcher and All-Star Devin Mesoraco and backup Brayan Pena. But circumstances can change quickly.
In 2014, after Mesoraco suffered an injury near the end of camp, Barnhart was on the Opening Day roster after he had been in Double-A the entire previous season. There would be five separate callups from Triple-A Louisville last year, with the switch-hitting Barnhart batting .185 in 21 games with his one home run coming vs. the Brewers on May 1.
"I took away a lot of things on how to prepare myself on a daily basis, with reading scouting reports and other things," said Barnhart, the Reds' 10th-round Draft pick in 2009. "That can only help me in the future."
MLB.com ranked Barnhart as the Reds organization's No. 14 prospect last year. He batted .246/.319/.316 with one homer and 29 RBIs in 78 games for Louisville. Known for being strong defensively, he threw out 35 percent of runners attempting to steal.
In the big leagues, Barnhart threw out eight of 11, including the last five in a row.
"I realized it's the same game. I know it's the cliché, but it really is," Barnhart said of the Majors. "You realize that you wouldn't be in the big leagues if the team and organization didn't have confidence in you and that you could produce and excel in the big leagues. I felt all along I could play at that level."
Although the pace of Spring Training is mellow, especially in the early days, they are vital for catchers to begin or continue the relationship building process with pitchers. Barnhart will be in big league camp for the fourth year and has benefitted from each experience.
"I thought that helped a lot last year as far as hitting the ground running when I was called upon to play," he said. "I already had that relationship, somewhat, with the guys I had caught in Spring Training."