MILWAUKEE -- The catching duties were supposed to be a split between Devin Mesoraco and Tucker Barnhart. With the understanding that when Mesoraco eventually got more stable, health-wise, he would get increased playing time, and Barnhart would return to a backup role.
But because of Mesoraco's continued injuries and struggles, it hasn't worked that way. And Barnhart has taken the opportunity to rise to the occasion. It was his seventh-inning homer that helped the Reds preserve an 11-10 win over the Brewers on Friday at Miller Park.
"He certainly answered the question: Can he handle day-to-day chores back there both as an offensive and defensive player?" Reds manager Bryan Price said. "Defensive first, and of course, game calling, managing the pitching staff on the field. When you're able to get quality at-bats on top of it, and do a lot of things for us offensively, it really starts to look a lot like this could be anybody's regular catcher."
When your team has scored 10 runs, it's rare that insurance runs are needed. But as the Brewers closed the gap, Barnhart's home run proved to be the difference in the game.
Cincinnati saw its 10-2 lead in the fourth inning nearly evaporate by the sixth, when the Brewers scored seven runs to move within one run. Barnhart led off the top of the seventh against reliever Carlos Torres and fouled off three pitches in a full count. On the fourth pitch, a 94-mph fastball, Barnhart drove it over the center field wall.
"It was great. Torres gives me some trouble," Barnhart said. "He's got a good cutter. I was fighting him off, fighting him off. He's tough to face when he's throwing up in the zone, to me at least. I finally got one down in the zone I could handle, and luckily put a good swing on it."
Barnhart, who has hit homers in two of his last three games, is batting .333 (11-for-33) over his last 11 games. He leads the team with 73 starts behind the plate. Last season, he started 106 times as Mesoraco missed most of 2016 with shoulder and hip surgeries.
Overall in 85 games, Barnhart is batting .266/.336/.398 with five homers and 28 RBIs. Mesoraco is batting .217/.319/.399 in 54 games with six homers and 14 RBIs.
"I've said it all along. Anybody who gets to the Major Leagues or signs a contract to play pro ball wants to be an everyday player in the Major Leagues," Barnhart said. "That's the obvious thing. I try to do as good as I can at any job that the team needs me to do. If I'm in there, hopefully, I can contribute at the highest level and help us win."
Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.