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Cubs part ways with veteran catcher, recall Miles Mastrobuoni

8 months agoTony Andracki

With the Cubs returning to contention, one of the more underrated storylines of the season has been the emergence of young catcher Miguel Amaya.

And as the Cubs are in win-now mode right now, it became apparent that the best lineup for the team on a daily basis featured either Yan Gomes or Amaya at catcher — which didn’t leave much room for veteran Tucker Barnhart.

The Cubs designated Barnhart for assignment Saturday morning and recalled infielder Miles Mastrobuoni from Triple-A Iowa.

“It’s not fun,” David Ross said. “It sucks. Worst part of this job. You got guys that buy into the team and you create a family atmosphere around here and these guys care about one another and you lose a family member and it just stinks. There’s no way around it. It’s never good.”

Barnhart, 32, signed a 1-year, $3.25 million deal with the Cubs prior to the season and formed a veteran duo with Gomes behind the plate to begin the year.

Known as one of the best defensive catchers in the game, Barnhart has 2 Gold Gloves to his name but he struggled to get going offensively with a .202 AVG and .541 OPS in 123 plate appearances.

Barnhart has started just 5 times in the five weeks since the All-Star Break and only twice in August. Meanwhile, Amaya has started 9 games behind the dish in the second half.

Gomes has been playing nearly everyday and is having a strong season both offensively and defensively.

“[Barnhart] wants to play and he has the right to feel that way,” Ross said. “It just feels like there’s not gonna be a whole lot of at-bats for him down the stretch. It’s one of those roster decisions that you’re trying to do the best for the player and for the team.

“Hopefully he catches on with somebody. He’s a really good catcher and he’s gonna be missed around here, that’s for sure.”

The Cubs have been impressed with how the 24-year-old Amaya has worked with the pitching staff and called games and he is also performing well at the plate (.245/.368/.383 slash line with a .751 OPS).

The move now frees up a bit more flexibility on the roster for Ross to make moves in-game or play the matchups in the starting lineup. Mastrobuoni can play all over the infield and saw time in the outfield early in the season as well.

He also provides a speed element to the game and can be utilized as a pinch-runner or a left-handed option off the bench.

The Cubs’ starting lineup is mostly solidified with Seiya Suzuki and Ian Happ manning the corner outfield spots on a daily basis while Nico Hoerner and Dansby Swanson play up the middle in the infield.

Against righties, Cody Bellinger plays first base with Mike Tauchman in center. Against lefties, Bellinger plays center and either Patrick Wisdom or Jeimer Candelario starts at first base. At third, it has been Candelario or Nick Madrigal and now Mastrobuoni provides another option over there.

“What happens in these types of situations is winning takes the precedent,” Ross said. “There’s no argument about playing time when guys are playing well. You get buy-in from good players and good teammates on winning teams. Conversationally, it’s important for me to address those guys that might be role players all of a sudden, like talking to Mastrobuoni and laid out his role today and how I saw him fitting in. He’ll prepare that way to be ready.

“It’s just about giving guys clarity. It’s up to me to communicate that. It’s up to them to be professional and men and handle that — whatever it is — and get buy-in. And if you don’t, maybe at some point, this isn’t the right place.”

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