Notes: Piniella supportive of Barrett
Struggling catcher in spotlight, but skipper appreciates effort
CHICAGO -- Michael Barrett did not start Wednesday night, but Cubs manager Lou Piniella said the reason was not because of any friction between the catcher and the pitchers. Barrett needed a break.
"It's been a tough couple weeks," Piniella said of his catcher, whose every move has been scrutinized since his dugout scuffle with pitcher Carlos Zambrano on June 1 at Wrigley Field. "I've got confidence in him. I'm going to rest him a little more. We'll catch [Koyie] Hill tonight, probably catch Hill tomorrow and then we'll go from there."
Piniella said the change has nothing to do with an animated conversation Barrett had in the dugout Tuesday night with pitcher Rich Hill. Both Barrett and Rich Hill said after the game that the left-hander was upset about his pitch to Seattle pitcher Jarrod Washburn, which resulted in an RBI single.
"What happened last night was nothing, I mean absolutely nothing," Piniella said. "I'm surprised it even made news. Fifteen seconds of conversation, nothing more, nothing less."
It looked rather animated.
"I was there," Piniella said, "and I didn't think the animation was out of character. You're playing a baseball game -- you're not playing tiddly winks. There is competition, for God's sakes."
In fact, Barrett and Rich Hill sat together on the bench Wednesday. Piniella didn't care how people interpreted what happened, or what they think of Barrett.
"I do know, he gives me effort every time and he wants what's best for the baseball team," Piniella said. "He has struggled. The guy's giving me what he's got. That's what I can expect as a manager."
Barrett has addressed the media after the problems, including a missed play Tuesday night in the 13th inning that resulted in the tiebreaking run for the Mariners. He's been charged with eight passed balls in 49 games this season. He committed 10 in 102 games last season.
"Like my mom says, bad publicity is better than no publicity at all," Barrett said.
Barrett's had enough publicity since he punched White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski in May 2006. He's well aware the cameras are focused on him.
"I know that," Barrett said. "I don't think Rich knew that [Tuesday night]."
Some outsiders believe that Barrett and the Cubs pitchers are not on the same page.
"That's not true," Barrett said. "I'll tell you, we've worked hard together, and I've developed a relationship with these guys.
"The catcher's position requires me to do a lot of things back there, and a lot of things I don't like doing," he said. "One thing I've developed with these pitchers is that I want them to do what's best for the team. I don't like making them do what's best for the team, I want them to do what's best for the team. And I work really hard to do that."
What about the deciding play Tuesday, when right fielder Jacque Jones threw home and Barrett couldn't get his glove on the ball, allowing Jose Vidro to score the tiebreaking run.
"You would want your catcher to make that play, whether it's Barrett or anybody else," Piniella said. "It's a game situation. Was it the easiest of all plays? It wasn't as easy as it looked. I've looked at the film. If we'd gotten a few runs in the eighth inning when we had the bases loaded and no outs, we wouldn't be talking about this."
Barrett wanted to watch the replay before commenting Tuesday night. So?
"I didn't realize out there that Vidro had hesitated and that there was time," Barrett said. "I was wondering what happened -- I was wondering how there was so much time. When he hit third base, Jacque caught the ball. I locked in on Jacque to catch the throw. When I did that, I was wondering -- I'd already blocked the plate, and I was wondering when he'd hit me. The ball had got there. I took my eye off it at the last minute to see where he was at."
Barrett's not to blame for the Cubs' struggles, Piniella said.
"A lot of pitchers have pitched a lot of good games when he's out there," Piniella said. "Let's not put this whole thing on the catcher, please. This is a game, it's a team game. There's 25 of us, including the manager, who have to get the job done. I wouldn't go overboard and put this load on him."
Call a mechanic: The umpires talked to pitching coach Larry Rothschild during Tuesday's game about Hill's delivery. It's not the first time.
The left-hander now has what appears to be a delay in his motion.
"He's modified it one time, and he had some problems with it," Piniella said. "Finally, [Rothschild] and Rich came up with this hang move. Now, if you read the rule book, it doesn't say that you can't do it.
"Last night, for whatever reason, the umpire called it," said Piniella, who sent Rothschild out to talk to umpire Tim McClelland. "It has two stops. I'm not saying the umpire is wrong, but it's a little different interpretation from what we got. Obviously, [Hill] has to do something he's comfortable with and he pitches well with."
Clarification: After Will Ohman was pulled from Tuesday's game, he appeared to be having an animated conversation of his own with a fan sitting behind the Cubs' dugout. However, Ohman did not yell at the fan, as reported. Ohman was upset that the man was using profanity in front of some kids sitting in the area, and was trying to get him to stop.
Good cause: For the second consecutive year, Major League Baseball will host a league-wide sixth-inning stretch on Sunday dedicated to raising awareness of prostate cancer. MLB players will wear blue wristbands and the blue ribbon on their uniform that day for prostate cancer awareness.
Gillette is joining the cause with its 11th annual Home Run Challenge. Fans can join in the fight against prostate cancer by pledging money for each home run hit during MLB games from now until Sunday. To make a pledge, go to www.gillettepcc.org.
Extra bases: Henry Blanco's rehab assignment has been delayed indefinitely. Blanco is sidelined with a herniated disk, and is still having some spasms in his arm. ... Daryle Ward is expected to begin a rehab assignment on Friday. ... Piniella skipped a postgame media session after Tuesday's 13-inning game, which the Cubs lost, 4-3. He said he was tired and had a headache. ... The Cardinals and Cubs will play their day-night doubleheader on Sept. 15, not Sept. 14 as previously announced. It's a makeup game for the April 29 game, which was postponed after the death of St. Louis pitcher Josh Hancock.
Minor matters: Scott Moore hit a three-run homer to highlight a five-run first inning and lift the Triple-A Iowa Cubs to a 10-5 victory over Omaha on Tuesday. Buck Coats was 3-for-3 with a double, RBI and stolen base. ... Double-A Tennessee had Tuesday off. ... Tyler Colvin hit his 23rd double in Class A Daytona's 7-3 loss to St. Lucie. ... Jose Pina gave up three runs on five hits over 4 2/3 innings in Class A Peoria's 3-2 loss to Burlington.
On deck: Jason Marquis will close the Cubs' Interleague series against the Seattle Mariners on Thursday against Jeff Weaver. Marquis is 0-2 in his last six starts. First pitch is scheduled for 1:20 p.m. CT, and the game will be broadcast on WGN.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.