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Will Josh Barfield be the next Brandon Phillips?
By: Brian Belko

The Tribe was recently in Cincinnati for a three game interleague series with their interstate rivals. Whenever the Tribe plays the Reds, it is hard for us Indians fans to not watch Brandon Phillips and wonder what could have been.

Phillips was the central piece in the trade that sent Bartolo Colon and several minor leaguers to Montreal and brought Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee and Phillips to the Tribe. After spending some time in the minors, Phillips played with the major league team sporadically between 2002 and 2005. Many would say that he never had a legitimate shot at coming in to his own on the major league team. After being traded to the Reds for a minor league pitcher, Phillips would be noted as saying that the reason for his demise in Cleveland was because of manager Eric Wedge.

Phillips claimed that Wedge did not like him or maybe had something against him and that was the reason for the limited playing time that he did see. Now judging by the way that Josh Barfield is being played in this organization, I am beginning to fear that he will be the next player to slip through the cracks and emerge as a great player for some other team. There are several everyday players with other clubs that were once farmhands for the Tribe. That is a trend that needs to be changed.

Barfield was acquired in 2006 for minor league third basemen Kevin Kouzmanoff after hitting .280 in his rookie year. The Indians were looking for their second basemen of the future and thought they had found their man in Barfield. However, Barfield had a difficult time adjusting to American League pitching after having his rookie season in the NL and was also in his second season which often is a down year for young players. He batted just .243 with an on-base percentage of .270. Although his offensive numbers were weak, Barfield’s defense was never a problem as he posted a fielding percentage of .975 in 2007.

The 2008 season was another poor year for Barfield. This time it wasn’t his offensive numbers, but injuries that gave him trouble. After getting injured early in the year, Barfield finally got healthy and came back to the big league club. However, he quickly injured his finger and his season was cut short after only playing in 12 games. During these seasons, Barfield started to lose favor in the Indian’s clubhouse. Upcoming star Asdrubal Cabrera was proving his worth, while Barfield was trying to recover from injury.

So far this year, Barfield has appeared in 5 games, but only has started twice. The other three appearances were late inning pinch running roles. He has been up and down to the minors several times this year. The young Luis Valbuena is getting significant playing time instead of Barfield even though Barfield has much more experience. This is just another sign that Barfield has fallen off the Tribe’s radar.

Now that Cabrera has gone on the DL with a separated shoulder and is expected to miss 2-4 weeks, maybe Barfield will see some more playing time. However, if Wedge continues to favor Valbuena and others over Barfield the rest of the season and especially in the next few weeks, I fear that Barfield’s days might be numbered as an Indian and Tribe fans will have to cringe when he emerges as a high quality everyday player for another team.