Aug 22, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Matt Barnes (68) pitches against the Kansas City Royals during the first inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports
The 25-year old right-hander has been bounced between the rotation and bullpen ever since spring training. Matt Barnes has most recently been used for a couple of spot starts with the Red Sox, but neither of them went well. He surrendered a total of 11 runs over 10.1 innings, taking the loss in both starts. He now holds a brutal 6.89 ERA and 1.84 WHIP in 23 appearances with Boston.
Prior to that Barnes had been in the rotation for Pawtucket, but he failed to make it through five innings in any of his three starts as he worked to build his arm strength back up following months of working as a reliever. He went 0-1 with a 4.09 ERA, striking out 8 in 11.0 innings over those three starts.
If Barnes makes his way back to the majors next month it will almost certainly be as a reliever. New president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski loves power arms and Barnes certainly fits the bill, with a heater that can touch 95 MPH.
Barnes remains a work in progress, but his constantly changing role may have inadvertently set back his career. If he can find some consistency coming out of Boston’s bullpen then it may finally allow him to settle down to find his comfort level. Barnes is a three-pitch pitcher who relies heavily on his fastball, while he continues to work on refining his breaking ball and off-speed pitch.
It’s difficult for any pitcher to work his way through a lineup a second and third time with such a limited arsenal. A permanent move to the bullpen would allow him to unleash his full velocity in shorter outings, while being less vulnerable to his pitch selection. A call-up next month would give the Red Sox an opportunity to further examine him in that role with an eye on turning him into a potential key piece of next year’s bullpen.
Next: Garin Cecchini