CHICAGO -- Michael Barrett left the fighting confines of
Wrigley Field for laid-back San Diego.
The Chicago Cubs traded the embattled catcher and cash to the NL
West-leading Padres on Wednesday for backup catcher Rob Bowen and
minor league outfielder Kyler Burke.
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
"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
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.