The Red Sox need Matt Barnes to find his fastball ASAP
Opening Day is this week, Red Sox Nation! And while I’m more than excited for the return of our beloved boys of summer, one guy has me a bit nervous to see him work when it actually counts. So far this spring Matt Barnes hasn’t had one of his biggest weapons and with time running out, he needs to find it ASAP.
Matty B went from an All-Star closer and one of the best relief pitchers in all of baseball to not even making the Postseason roster in a span of a few short months in 2021. As we approach a trip to the Bronx to kick off the regular season, the Red Sox fireballer has yet to find his fire. We’ve gotten used to seeing the righty live in the upper-90s with his heat, but so far in spring, he’s barely gotten to 95 mph on the gun, not good.
His biggest weapon is the one-two punch he’s created between his curveball and fastball. Up until the midway point of last year, it was damn near deadly as opposing batters just couldn’t get comfortable. He’d hammer hitters with the heater just to make them look downright foolish with that ankle-breaking curve. That combination isn’t worth anything if he can’t get back to flirting with 100.
Red Sox skipper Alex Cora was asked about Barnes after his most recent appearance, and while the boss said the team wasn’t concerned, there were a few beats that could make you think otherwise.
"“The velo is not there,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “We see it. It’s 92, 93 (mph). Right now, I don’t know if it’s mechanics or the short spring. But last year from the get-go, the velo was there. His first outing he was throwing 96, 97. I think he’s hit 95 a few times (this spring). But he’s been inconsistent with the velocity. And that’s something we’re not worried about, but … it’s Opening Day Thursday.”"
Again, Cora says he and the staff aren’t worried but pointing out that the reliever is far behind where he was just a year ago leads me to believe there is some doubt in there. Now, Barnes very well could find whatever it is he’s missing in his outings but with just a couple of opportunities left before things get real, he doesn’t have time.
The Red Sox went into the offseason needing to bolster their bullpen but as Opening Day quickly approaches, it feels like it’s more lost than ever. Guys that had been reliable before are in shambles and even the additions aren’t quite panning out yet. Then we have the curious case of where Garrett Whitlock will end up for 2022. With so many questions in the balance, Boston can’t afford for Barnes to be anything less than stellar.
"“Hopefully his velo ticks up before we get there,” Cora said. “Because that was a game changer last year: velo and attacking. So we’ll take a look at it and keep working with him. But that’s something that caught my attention today. … You saw the kids throwing 95-96. We’re at the stage in spring regardless of where we’re at, 19 days, 20 days, whatever, we’re almost there. And we need to get going.”"
Earlier in spring, Matty Backpacks did say that he wanted to regain his job as the team’s closer, but that seems more like a dream than a reality at this point. Obviously, things can ramp up when the adrenaline is flowing and wins and losses matter, but I haven’t seen anything from him that makes me confident.
My support for Barnes has been up and down over the years. At times he can look like the best pitcher in the game and others as if he should be in Worcester, but he’s a likable guy and I want him to succeed. His new extension gives him some time to figure things out but I also have him on my short list of guys that can be moved by the Trade Deadline if he can’t.
Barnes has been one of Boston’s best and at times most head-scratching pitchers in recent memory. At times, he’s the only guy I want on the mound and at others, I hope the bullpen phone isn’t working. His lack of velocity does worry me and probably worries the Red Sox too, even if they won’t admit it. With little having been done to beef up the relief efforts, he can’t afford for Matty B to be less than his best.