In a move foretold by Tim Collins‘ designation for assignment, the Cubs have activated righty reliever Tony Barnette from the 60-day IL. To make room on the 25-man roster, righty Rowan Wick was optioned to Triple-A Iowa.
The 35-year-old Barnette signed a major league deal with the Cubs this past February, but has not pitched for the big league club due to lingering shoulder issues. He’s back to full health now, though, and he’s been lights-out during his recent rehab stint.
Barnette appeared in four games for the Iowa Cubs between April 21 and May 1 as part of an earlier rehab assignment, but recurring soreness shut him down after that fourth appearance. The Cubs then moved him to the 60-day IL retroactive to his original March 25 designation to make room on the 40-man roster.
Since beginning a new rehab assignment on June 1, Barnette has pitched 8.1 innings over nine scoreless appearances for the I-Cubs. He has struck out nine men against just one walk while allowing only one hit, a single, in his second game. That sounds like exactly the kind of performance the Cubs could use.
The righty has proven he can pitch well in the bigs, going 2-0 with a 2.39 ERA in 22 relief appearances for the Rangers last season. He struck out 26 while issuing only five walks — proven strike-thrower — and limited opponents to a .196 batting average in 26.1 innings. That included a .167 (5-for-30) mark by lefties, which automatically makes Barnette a better LOOGY than either lefty pitcher Joe Maddon has been using.
This move didn’t require much of a decision for the Cubs, but things will start to get a little more pressing when Craig Kimbrel is activated. But that’s very good when it comes to the bullpen’s performance, since it brings additional stability and more clearly defined roles.
Barnette last pitched Friday in Iowa, so expect him to make an appearance against the Mets if Cole Hamels doesn’t throw a complete game.