Tres Barrera’s days as a Texas catcher may not be over, but with the way things are going at his new position, they’ll be reduced considerably.
Barrera made his third straight start at third base on Friday and looked the part of a seasoned veteran, making a wonderful back-handed stop to get out of the third inning. He also hit a solo home run in the sixth, helping the sub. 500 Longhorns take down fifth-ranked TCU for the second night in a row, 2-0.
Barrera, who has made 89 starts in his career at catcher, will trot out to third again on Saturday when the Longhorns, who are taking full advantage of a fresh start in Big 12 play, will try to seal off their first sweep of the season.
That means Michael Cantu, who typically splits catching duties with Barrera, better ice his knees and prepare for a whole lot of work behind the plate.
“We have to,” Longhorns coach Augie Garrido said. “Maybe on a Tuesday we’ll do something else. … That’s our best team right now.”
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There’s no telling how much damage would’ve come had Barrera not taken away an extra base hit from Cam Warner with a runner on first. Barrera, who goes 225 pounds, dove down the line, back-handed the ball, and threw a dart to Kacy Clemens at first for the final out of the inning.
“He always says, ‘I can play short, I can play third,’” starting pitcher Ty Culbreth said. “I think he proved it tonight. It was an amazing play.”
Barrera, who moved to third this week as part of a major defensive shake-up, said he’s “getting more comfortable over there as the days go by.”
For the third straight night, UT (11-12, 2-0) did not make an error in the field and eliminated the mindless mistakes that inspired Garrido a week earlier after losing to Tulane to say “they don’t have confidence.”
In the sixth, Culbreth encountered his first real trouble when he gave an intentional pass to No. 4 hitter Luken Baker to load the bases. Yet it didn’t hurt because for the second night in a row the Horns turned a rally-killing double play when new shortstop Kody Clemens started it with a flip to new second baseman Zane Gurwitz.
Gurwitz, the team’s best outfielder, also made a heady play in the ninth when he barehanded a ball that closer Connor Mayes couldn’t get to and threw to first for the second out.
“Defense played outstanding,” Culbreth said. “They helped me out so much today.”
Culbreth, who came into the weekend leading the Big 12 in innings pitched, struck out three in 6 1/3 before turning it over to a bullpen that, for the second night, featured Shugart in the seventh, Josh Sawyer in the eighth and Mayes in the ninth. Sawyer was particularly stout, striking out TCU’s Nos. 1-3 hitters.
“That’s big league,” said Culbreth, who improved to 4-2. “If we can establish 7-8-9 no starter feels he has to do too much.”
TCU’s Brian Howard (4-1) worked all eight innings and struck out nine and walked none. Texas scored both of its runs in the sixth, on a double-play groundout by Kody Clemens and Barrera’s second HR of the week, a bomb to left-center.