Cubs trade Barrett to Padres
CHICAGO -- Michael Barrett left the fighting confines of Wrigley Field for laid-back San Diego.
Barrett, batting .256 with nine homers and 29 RBIs, has had problems defensively and also been involved in two dugout exchanges this month with Cubs pitchers.
He and Carlos Zambrano got into a skirmish in the dugout June 1 and it carried over into the clubhouse where Barrett got a black eye and needed stitches in his lip.
The Atlanta Braves had scored five runs just before Zambrano and Barrett went at it in the dugout. Zambrano pointed at his head and screamed at Barrett, who allowed a run to score on a passed ball and throwing error.
Less than two weeks later, Barrett and pitcher Rich Hill had a verbal exchange in the dugout during a game against the Seattle Mariners.
"The fight had nothing to do with it," general manager Jim Hendry said during a telephone conference call. "The Rich Hill situation, that's normal major league baseball every night. It just happened to be seen and blown out of proportion. That happens all the time. It wasn't even discussed in-house about being an issue. ... We just felt like we were trying to shore up the position in a little different fashion, a little bit more defensively."
Barrett called the two confrontations "unfortunate," and said they were behind him.
"As you guys will see, some of the things that happened are not a mark of my character or of my integrity," Barrett said during a news conference before the Padres hosted the Baltimore Orioles. "It's just that some of the things that happened are a circumstance of the way baseball is, and what kind of competitor I am. I play on the edge, a lot."
Padres general manager Kevin Towers said he spoke with pitcher Greg Maddux, Barrett's former teammate with the Cubs, and was assured that the catcher would mesh well with the club.
"He told me that pretty much anybody could fit into this clubhouse," Towers said.
Barrett, teammates with Padres ace Jake Peavy on the USA's team in last year's World Baseball Classic, is expected to split time with Josh Bard. Manager Bud Black said Barrett will start Thursday afternoon against the Orioles.
The Padres, who struggle at times offensively, were able to get a right-handed bat without giving up anyone from their talented bullpen, and the cash obtained from the Cubs was a big consideration.
Zambrano refused comment as he walked off the field before pregame warmups in Texas on Wednesday night.
Hill said there weren't any problems between Barrett and the pitchers and said the catcher would be missed in the clubhouse.
"He was a leader here. He did a great job for us," Hill said, downplaying his incident with Barrett. "It's like brothers. ... Guys have disagreements. Nobody's going to agree on the same point all the time. It was over a pitch I was frustrated about throwing and it ended up getting blown out of proportion. Every pitcher got along with Michael great."
An emotional player, Barrett was the central figure in a brawl with the White Sox last season. He set it off by punching A.J. Pierzynski in the jaw after he'd been run over at the plate. Barrett was suspended for 10 games.
Barrett, who signed a $12 million, three-year deal in January 2005, has a $4.4 million salary this year and will be eligible for free agency after this season. The Cubs will pay $1.5 million of the approximately $2.47 million left on this year's salary.
"You look at this deal from the standpoint that we're getting a catcher we can control for the next three or four years and we're getting a nice young left-handed bat that we're putting into our system who can grow and be on our big-league club in the near future," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said.
Barrett's been known more for his offensive abilities than his ones behind the plate. In 2006, he batted a career high .307 with 16 homers and 53 RBIs.
"We felt he was on his way to becoming a terrific player, an all-star caliber player," Hendry said. "This year he has a little tougher time defensively, and a lot of it is probably from trying too hard. ... We just felt like we needed to make a change."
Koyie Hill was Zambrano's catcher the last three starts and was the starter Wednesday night against the Rangers. Henry Blanco, who was supposed to be Barrett's backup this season, has been on the disabled list with neck problems.
Bowen is batting .268 with two homers and 11 RBIs in 30 games for the Padres this season.
Hendry said discussions with Towers began three or four days ago. It comes less than a week after San Diego and Chicago got into a bench-clearing brawl at Wrigley Field, one that began when Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee was hit by a pitch and took a swing at Padres' pitcher Chris Young.
AP Sports Writer Bernie Wilson in San Diego and freelance writer Ken Sins in Arlington, Texas, contributed to this report.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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