Cubs designate catcher Tucker Barnhart for assignment, recall Miles Mastrobuoni

Barnhart has a .202/.282/.257 batting line this year that’s among his career-worst, and his place as the odd man out became apparent with four starts over the team’s last 30 games.

SHARE Cubs designate catcher Tucker Barnhart for assignment, recall Miles Mastrobuoni
Tucker Barnhart and Adbert Alzolay celebrate the Cubs’ win against the Braves on Aug. 6.

Tucker Barnhart and Adbert Alzolay celebrate the Cubs’ win against the Braves on Aug. 6.

Quinn Harris/Getty Images

His locker remained fully stocked Saturday morning, but catcher Tucker Barnhart’s time with the Cubs is over.

Barnhart, 32, was designated for assignment less than a season into a two-year, $6.5 million deal he signed in December. According to a source, the full amount is guaranteed, even though the 2024 season was a player option in the contract. Utility player Miles Mastrobuoni was recalled from Triple-A Iowa to take Barnhart’s spot.

A two-time Gold Glove winner, Barnhart’s main selling point upon arrival was his defense, with the acknowledgment that his bat is below-average. He remained a well-rated framer this season and was a target for plaudits from Cubs pitchers.

‘‘Tucker is one of the best defensive catchers in the league,’’ reliever Michael Fulmer said Wednesday. ‘‘He’s been phenomenal all year calling pitches and defensively behind the plate.’’

But it’s a rarity for teams to carry three catchers, especially with Yan Gomes having a solid season on both sides of the ball. Barnhart struggled to a .202/.282/.257 batting line this season that’s among the worst of his career, and his place as the odd man out became apparent after he made only four starts in the Cubs’ last 30 games.

‘‘He wants to play, and he has a right to feel that way,’’ manager David Ross said. ‘‘Feels like there’s not going to be a whole lot of at-bats for him down the stretch. It’s one of those roster decisions where you’re trying to do the best for the player and for the team. Hopefully he catches on with somebody.’’

The move doubles as an endorsement of rookie Miguel Amaya’s ability to handle the backup role. Amaya, 24, has a ways to go before matching Barnhart’s defensive reputation, but he has hit a more palatable .245/.368/.383.

A rotation without Stroman

Ross didn’t announce his new starting rotation now that right-hander Marcus Stroman will be sidelined indefinitely, but he acknowledged the Cubs have ‘‘moved some pieces around’’ in the wake of Stroman’s rib injury.

The Cubs’ coaching staff must prepare a plan that will hold up if Stroman isn’t able to return this season.

‘‘Once guys go on the [injured list], especially with a serious injury, they’re kind of off the radar until they’re throwing bullpens,’’ Ross said.

Speaking with the media during the game Friday, Stroman indicated he didn’t expect to be around the team much in the immediate future and wouldn’t travel on road trips.

‘‘I haven’t gotten his plan quite yet,’’ Ross said. ‘‘We’ve got to let it calm down, for sure. He’s in some serious pain. We’ve got to let it calm down, but we’ll start to build him back up as fast as we can once he feels like he’s symptom-free.’’

Steele-ing himself for the finish

With six more walk-free innings Saturday and with every out going forward, left-hander Justin Steele is setting a new career high in innings pitched. At 132 innings with a sparkling 2.80 ERA, Steele credits continuing to throw while injured late last season with preparing him for the stretch run this season.

‘‘Going through that was very important,’’ Steele said. ‘‘[It’s] just recognizing what happened at the end of last year. Running a little bit out of gas, back ends up tightening up. Just doing the proper things in the offseason to make sure that when the time comes, we’re well-equipped.’’

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