The emergence of Matt Barnes as a dominant reliever for the Red Sox couldn’t have come at a better time.
No, not the Matt Barnes who laid the wood on Derek Fisher. That’s the NBA’s jewel, Matt Barnes.
I’m talking about the 19th overall pick in the 2011 MLB draft out of UConn. The Matt Barnes who has become a stabilizing force in Boston’s bullpen over the course of this season. And It really couldn’t have come at a better time.
After making deals for both Carson Smith and Craig Kimbrel during the offseason, the Red Sox have watched both land on the DL. Smith’s injury called for Tommy John surgery and will keep him out indefinitely, while Kimbrel’s also required surgery, but is only supposed to sideline him for 3-6 weeks.
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In addition, former closer Koji Uehara and setup-man Junichi Tazawa also find themselves on the 15-Day DL. Uehara endured a pectoral strain, and according to Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe, told Japanese reporters he will be out month.
Tazawa is the closest of the bunch to healthy and will possibly be available in the bullpen for the Twin’s series this weekend.
It’s really quite remarkable that Boston’s top four relievers would simultaneously land on the DL. There are certainly factors in play that aided in these players injuries. For one, Smith’s delivery has long been thought of an injury waiting to happen. Then there’s Uehara, who is after all 41 years old, and like Tazawa has been greatly overused by John Farrell and the Red Sox.
I guess now Dave Dombrowski and the Sox really look like geniuses for bringing in a veteran reliever like Brad Ziegler.
But, that’s not what they should be most thankful for. With Boston’s former first-round pick, Barnes, finally finding himself, it has allowed the Red Sox to utilize him in high pressure situations as a true power-arm. That is invaluable in a similar fashion to the Yankees Dellin Betances, and Barnes has been simply dominant in some outings like he was last night against the Giants.
“One of the premier arms in any bullpen across the country.”
The recent strides in Matt Barne’s curveball and overall command, to compliment his big fastball has made him a true nightmare for hitters. As was perfectly illustrated last night when Barnes, in a 3-2 count and after throwing multiple heaters, reared back to deliver a devastating curve to record the strikeout. A younger Barnes would not have been so bold.
Now, you had to know it wouldn’t take long to get a response out of Farrell that would be sports talk gold. Sure enough, as Scott Lauber of ESPN noted, Farrell made known his thoughts known saying Barnes is “one of the premier arms in any bullpen across the country.”
Even as far as Barnes has come and as strong he has pitched this season, that’s quite the stretch. Let’s remember Barnes ended last season with an ERA north of 5.00, and while he is turning into a reliable power-arm this year, he still isn’t the teams best or likely even second best reliever when the others are healthy.
But, what he is proving to be is the go-to man while Kimbrel and Co. are sidelined. And for that the Red Sox can breathe a sigh of relief.