CINCINNATI -- Subtly and without much attention, Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart has given up switch-hitting for the time being with the option of making it a permanent change. Since late August, Barnhart has tested out hitting solely left-handed -- even against lefty pitchers.
“I’m testing it out, if you want to call it that,” Barnhart told MLB.com on Thursday. “I’m trying to see if it’s a possibility moving forward and I’ll go into the offseason, sit down and think about it again. Then I’ll head into Spring Training with a clear vision of what I want to do.”
Barnhart, who will turn 29 in January, struggled from both sides of the plate while batting .191 before the All-Star Break. He came into the day batting .281 in the second half after returning from missing a month with a right oblique strain.
This season, Barnhart batted .150 as a righty hitter vs. lefties while it was at .251 as a lefty vs. righties. Over his career, he’s batted .259 left-handed vs. righties and .220 as a righty against lefties. He’s not ready to say he’s done forever batting right-handed, but it definitely appeared likely.
“I’ve thought about it for a long time, and it’s not been just this year,” Barnhart said. “I’ve had conversations about it in the Minor Leagues with [coaches] Freddie [Benavides] and Delino [DeShields] when I was in Double-A. I’m naturally a left-handed hitter. When my career is over, said and done, I don’t want to think ‘What if?’ I do feel confident that I would be a better hitter -- lefty on lefty than right on left -- but it remains to be seen.”
Barnhart has $8.6 million of guaranteed money remaining in his four-year contract through 2022 with a $7.5 million club option for ’23. The Reds explored trading him in the offseason if it meant acquiring J.T. Realmuto from the Marlins. As he heads into this offseason, is the 2017 National League Gold Glove winner among catchers concerned batting only left-handed would expose him to becoming more of a platoon player?
“Yes and no,” Barnhart said. “I think it’s already trending in that direction anyway. I just feel like I’m giving myself a better chance, left on left than right on left. I’m tired of going back to the drawing board over and over again and nothing working. I won’t say it’s hurt my left-handed swing, but I don’t think [switch-hitting] has allowed me to reach my full potential left-handed because I still have to work on hitting right-handed and that’s less swings for the left side.”
Gray feeling good after surgery
Wearing a wrap over his right arm, Reds pitcher Sonny Gray walked into the clubhouse Thursday morning to chuckles from teammates as he smiled. On Wednesday, Gray had arthroscopic surgery to remove four bone chips.
Gray brought them in and showed teammates and pitching coach Derek Johnson.
“You're surprised at the size, it was crazy,” Gray said. “DJ told me that I should put it under my pillow and see if the tooth fairy comes. They were pretty big, man, but just imagine like … take some of your teeth out and stick them in your elbow and then see how it how it feels.”
Gray is expected to make a full recovery. He’s hoping he can play golf in two weeks and begin throwing again in early November. After being diagnosed with the loose bodies in his elbow during Spring Training, he was able to pitch with them all season.
The season ended for Gray on Tuesday and he finished with an 11-8 record, a 2.87 ERA and 205 strikeouts over 175 1/3 innings and 31 starts. He became an All-Star for the second time in his career.
“We knew that I couldn't do anything to make it worse, it was kind of like a pain tolerance thing,” Gray said.