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Barnhart avoids injury following unique HBP

Votto, Winker remain sidelined due to back tightness
@m_sheldon
August 16, 2019

CINCINNATI -- Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart was lucky that he wasn’t seriously hurt when he was hit in the head by a 94-mph fastball from Cardinals pitcher Michael Wacha on Thursday. But Barnhart was also prepared by wearing the right equipment. Wacha’s 1-1 pitch in the fifth hit Barnhart’s helmet,

CINCINNATI -- Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart was lucky that he wasn’t seriously hurt when he was hit in the head by a 94-mph fastball from Cardinals pitcher Michael Wacha on Thursday. But Barnhart was also prepared by wearing the right equipment.

Wacha’s 1-1 pitch in the fifth hit Barnhart’s helmet, knocking it off his head. The fastball struck the “C-flap” of the helmet, a relatively new feature available to players that adds protection to the jaw and cheekbones.

“There’s a ball mark on my chin thing,” Barnhart said. “It’s interesting. I just started wearing it and messing around with it, more for a hitting thing -- it’s just a key for me at the plate. Damn glad I had it.”

The ball also grazed Barnhart on the shoulder and struck the top of his right hand, leaving a sizable bruise. He almost fell down, and Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina alertly tried to keep Barnhart on his feet.

“I don’t know what happened on that one," Wacha said. "That was very rare, and I think it was one of the first times I’ve ever done that. I just hope he’s all right. Thank goodness he had something there."

Barnhart, who already had been sidelined a month earlier this season because of a right oblique strain, acknowledged that the moment was scary.

“Obviously, a ball being up there close to you like that, you try to get out of the way. But it was like a heat-seeking missile,” Barnhart said. “Obviously, there was no intention or anything by that. Yadi popped up real quick and helped me not fall down, which I really appreciated. He’s a good dude. It’s just part of the game. I will take getting on base.”

Back issues hit Votto, Winker

Reds first baseman Joey Votto was out of the starting lineup for a second straight day Friday because of lower back tightness. Votto was a late scratch from Thursday’s game because of the issue. Josh VanMeter started both games in place of Votto.

On Friday, the Reds had a second lefty hitter unable to start in outfielder Jesse Winker, who has upper back tightness.

“It’s not why [Winker] didn’t play last night,” Reds manager David Bell said. “But it was a bigger reason why he’s not playing today.”

Winker first felt soreness earlier in the week.

“I just woke up. I slept on it wrong,” Winker said. “That’s when I first started feeling it. Then it progressively got worse.

“Just a little back spasm. Unfortunately, it happened, but I should be all right. Hopefully I will start to feel better by the end of today or start feeling better tomorrow.”

Winker said that his back bothered him while trying to both hit and throw.

“It’s just an annoying, dull pain,” he said. “It’s tight as [heck]. I’m just waiting for it to release.”

Winker is undergoing treatment with the medical staff.

“I will be doing treatment throughout the game today and before and after the game,’ Winker said. “Hopefully it will loosen up. It’s not fun to deal with.”

Worth noting

Catcher Curt Casali, who is on the 10-day injured list with a right knee ligament sprain, but sustained a left hamstring strain while catching on a Minor League rehab assignment last Saturday, ran the bases Friday without pain.

Casali, who last played for the Reds on July 15, is expected to begin a new rehab assignment with Louisville next week.

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.