Original article link: A year later, Barnes proving Sox right, by Sam Dykstra
A year ago, Matt Barnes was chosen by the Red Sox in the first round of the First-Year Player Draft. On Monday, he was justifying the selection.
The win marked the fourth time through six starts in the Carolina League that Barnes had matched his career high of six innings pitched and the second time in which he did not give up a run.
The 6-foot-4 right-hander retired nine Dash hitters in a row between the second and fifth innings. He did not allow a runner to reach scoring position until the sixth when Carlos Sanchez and Brady Shoemaker hit consecutive singles with one out. But Barnes responded by forcing Dan Black to ground into a double play to end the threat.
Monday’s outing represented a rebound from the 21-year-old’s previous start in which he set career highs with three runs and six hits allowed through four frames in a 6-3 win over Lynchburg on May 30.
The difference this time out, according to the hurler, was his ability to throw his primary pitch.
“I established my fastball command pretty well early,” Barnes said. “I was able to throw it for strikes, which was good because they seemed to be swinging a lot early and putting a lot of balls in play. So I was able to get some quick outs because of that. … The fastball command was something I wanted to improve after last time because it wasn’t quite what I wanted it to be.”
But the fastball wasn’t the only pitch that Barnes thought needed work. The former University of Connecticut star talked to fellow Husky and Braves’ No. 10 prospect Nick Ahmed about what he needed to improve upon after the subpar outing against the Hillcats.
Ahmed responded by saying that his teammates easily picked up on Barnes’ changeup — he threw only one in that start — because he used a two-seam grip for the pitch despite throwing only four-seam fastballs. The fix was easy — move to a four-seam grip — and the results followed.
“I threw 12 or 13 changeups today, I think,” Barnes said. “After moving around the grip and working around with it all week, I’m feeling pretty comfortable with it.”
If Barnes, who improved to 3-1 with a 1.59 ERA through six starts for Salem, can continue to improve the quality of both his fastball and offspeed pitches while putting up pitching lines similar to Monday’s, he could look like a real steal as the 19th overall pick in last June’s Draft.
Despite all the recent success, however, that moment still holds a special place in the hurler’s heart, for more than just the obvious reason.
“I’ll remember that day for the rest of my life,” he said. “But the funny thing was being drafted wasn’t even the highlight of that day. We beat Clemson in the NCAA Regionals to advance to the Super Regionals. We were the first team in [UConn] history to ever do that, so there were a lot of great things going on then.”
Barnes wasn’t the only Red Sox first-rounder from that Draft class that put up big numbers for Salem on Monday. Jackie Bradley — the 40th overall selection last June — was 4-for-5 with a double and two runs scored.
With the performance, the center fielder, who also made a diving grab in the fourth inning, improved his batting average to .387 and his on-base percentage to a Minors-leading .498. Those numbers along with some other intangibles have people taking notice.
“The way he plays is unbelievable,” Barnes said. “Not only is he statistically absurd, but there’s a lot of other things he brings to the team. The way he plays center, you know anything that goes out there is going to be caught. He’s just a nice guy who plays the game right, and that rubs off on everyone else.”
Filed under: 2012: USA Minor League Player Updates