RHP Johnny Barbato hopes third Tigers call-up is charm

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Cincinnati — Been there done it.

Johnny Barbato has ridden the shuttle between Triple-A and the big leagues multiple times for multiple organizations (New York, Pittsburgh and now Detroit) over the last three seasons. So when he got the call at midnight that he was to meet the Tigers in Cincinnati, he just shrugged and asked what time’s the flight.

Reliever Johnny Barbato owns a 5.06 ERA in five appearances for the Tigers this season.

“It is what it is,” he said. “Just another day.”

Barbato, who had thrown a nine-pitch inning for the Mud Hens on Tuesday at Gwinnett, was up at 4:30 a.m. to catch a flight out of Atlanta to Cincinnati. He was hastily recalled, for the third time this season, after Drew VerHagen had his nose broken in the Tigers’ 9-5 loss Tuesday.

“Barbato has been closing down there,” Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. “And all the reports are he’s been fantastic. He’s been in the zone. His velocity is good and (Toledo pitching coach Jeff) Pico recommended him. He said this guy should be in the big leagues.

“He’s got good stuff. It’s just about throwing it over the plate.”

In his last three-day stint with the Tigers earlier this month, he walked two and hit a batter in 1.2 innings. But since going back to Toledo, he has worked seven innings without issuing a walk.

“I’ve been throwing strikes, but it’s a little different down there,” Barbato said. “Everybody swings at everything.”

Still, his fastball has been ringing in the mid-90s and he’s been dominant. Triple-A batters were hitting .083 against him (two hits in seven innings since returning to Toledo).

The Tigers went into the game Wednesday without a long reliever. Warwick Saupold and Buck Farmer each threw 40-plus pitches on Tuesday and were unavailable. VerHagen was placed on the disabled list.

Gardenhire said Barbato could go two innings and Alex Wilson could work multiple innings if needed. He also said Blaine Hardy, whose next start will be pushed back four or five days, would also be available in an emergency.