You’ll be forgiven if you don’t remember Tony Barnette, the righty reliever the Cubs picked up this past winter on a one-year deal with a 2020 club option. He hasn’t pitched for the big club yet because the shoulder soreness that dogged him with the Rangers in 2018 lingered into this season and he was placed on the 10-day IL on March 28. But if things work out, you’ll remember Barnette for more than just his lovely locks.
Joe Maddon announced after Wednesday’s win over the White Sox that Adbert Alzolay was being called up to back Tyler Chatwood for Thursday’s series opener against the Mets. In order to make room on 25-man roster, Tim Collins was designated for assignment, a move that struck me as odd but that I didn’t have time to ponder because I was posting from my phone right before bed.
This is an important note. The Collins DFA was paired with the Alzolay news last night but those aren’t really aligned. An Alzolay call-up does not require a 40-man move. Barnette off the 60-day would. I’m with Tommy; I bet Barnette is up, too. https://t.co/9eIU1WnlP5
— Cubs Prospects – Bryan Smith (@cubprospects) June 20, 2019
Because Alzolay was already on the 40-man roster, the Cubs didn’t need to DFA Collins to make room. Had they just been calling the righty starter up, they could have simply optioned Collins back to Triple-A. So the move to clear space on the 40-man seems to be more about accommodating someone else, perhaps a player who’s ready to come off the 60-day IL.
That would be Barnette, who was transferred there on May 3 in order to clear up a roster spot. The timing might seem a little strange if you count forward from that date, since it would mean waiting nearly two weeks before Barnette could be activated. Except he was never actually activated from the 10-day IL in the first place.
Barnette appeared in four games for the Iowa Cubs between April 21 and May 1, but those were all part of a rehab assignment. So when recurring soreness shut him down after that fourth appearance, the Cubs moved Barnette to the 60-day IL retroactive to his original March 25 designation. That means he’s eligible to be activated to the active roster at any point.
And if his recent performance is any indication, that transaction should be forthcoming. Since beginning a new rehab assignment on June 1, Barnette has pitched 7.1 innings over eight scoreless appearances for the I-Cubs. He has struck out seven men against just one walk while allowing only one hit, a single, in his second game.
Across 12 appearances so far, Barnette has a 2.53 ERA and a 0.75 WHIP and has held opponents to a .162 average. When added to an abbreviated 2018 season that saw him post a 2.39 ERA with 26 strikeouts and only five walks over 26.1 innings for Texas, you can see how the righty could be a valuable addition to a shaky Cubs bullpen.
Of course, there’d still be another corresponding move to be made at that point because Barnette would need a 25-man spot. Maybe we see Alzolay optioned back down or another pitcher placed on the IL to make room. Ah, the joys of roster management.