Piniella still confident in Barrett, says he needs time off

Updated: June 14, 2007, 12:54 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Chicago Cubs manager Lou Piniella said catcher Michael Barrett, who has argued with pitchers in the dugout twice this month and struggled on defense at times this season, will see his playing time reduced in the coming weeks.

Barrett front and center

Michael Barrett
In an interview with ESPN 1000 in Chicago, Michael Barrett discusses his dugout dealings with Rich Hill and Carlos Zambrano, his defensive play, and the perception that all Cubs pitchers have problems with him. Listen

"It has been a tough couple of weeks [for Barrett]," manager Lou Piniella said Wednesday, according to the Chicago Tribune. "I have confidence in him. I'm going to rest him a little more."

Piniella said that the reason to give Barrett more time off had nothing to do with his argument with Rich Hill on Tuesday, and Piniella said that particular discussion was not a big deal.

"It's absolutely nothing," Piniella said, according to the Tribune. "I'm surprised it even made news. It was 15 seconds of conversation. Nothing more, nothing less. I was there, and I didn't think the animation was out of character.

"You're playing a baseball game. You're not playing Tiddlywinks. There is competition, for God's sake," Piniella said.

Barrett, who got into a dugout confrontation, shoving match and then a clubhouse brawl with starter Carlos Zambrano during a game earlier this month, had a heated discussion with Hill in the fourth inning of Chicago's 5-3 loss to the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday night. Cameras trained on the Cubs dugout caught the two arguing after Hill gave up an RBI single to Seattle pitcher Jarrod Washburn.

The Cubs' regular backup catcher, Henry Blanco, is still two weeks away from returning from the disabled list.

But at the same time, the Cubs' current backup catcher, minor league call-up Koyie Hill, is giving Piniella reasons to start him behind the plate instead.

Since Hill was called up from Triple-A Iowa on June 1 -- the same day as the "slugout in the dugout" between Barrett and Zambrano -- the Cubs are 4-1 in games Hill has caught. Cubs starting pitchers are 4-0 with a combined 1.49 ERA with Hill catching, with Zambrano and Sean Marshall both 2-0 with Hill behind the plate.

Marshall pitched eight strong innings Wednesday night as the Cubs beat Seattle 3-2, snapping the Mariners' season-high five-game winning streak.

''He works the pitchers well and makes them use all their pitches. He's done a nice job," Piniella said of Hill, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

But Piniella also refused to lay the blame for the Cubs' poor performance at Barrett's feet.

"Let's not put this whole thing on the catcher, please," he said, according to the Tribune. "That's very unfair. It's a team game, and there are 25 of us, including the manager, who have to get the job done. I wouldn't go overboard putting the load on him."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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