With Boston’s bullpen still a very big question mark less than two weeks from Opening Day, Matt Barnes is doing everything he can to prove his worth as a big league pitcher.
Barnes entered Saturday’s contest against the Tampa Bay Rays at Charolette Sports Park with two outs in the bottom of the fourth inning, replacing knuckle baller Steven Wright. He promptly got Asdrubal Cabrera to roll a ground ball to shortstop Xander Bogaerts, who forced out Steven Souza Jr. at second base to retire the side.
The 24-year old Danbury, CT native returned to the mound for the bottom of the fifth, and promptly retired Evan Longoria, James Loney and Desmond Jennings in order.
After Brandon Guyer started the bottom of the sixth frame with a double to left field, Barnes was able to retire Logan Forsythe, Curt Casali and John Jaso on three consecutive strikes outs.
Barnes finished the day with 2 2/3 innings pitched, allowing a single hit and striking out four. In seven Spring Training games, he owns a 0-1 record to go with a 5.25 ERA, but has held opponents to just a .227 batting average, and has posted an impressive 1.08 WHIP.
Although there is a very real possibility Barnes ends up on the Opening Day roster, he is trying only to focus on the things he can control personally.
“I’m not trying to think about that at all,” stated Barnes in an interview with MLB.com’s Ian Browne. “If you start thinking about that, I’m getting ahead of myself.
“The only thing I can control is going out there and pitching. I’m focusing on that, getting my work in between outings, and letting the rest take care of itself. I feel happy with how I’ve thrown the ball. We’ll just let the management make the decision on that.”
Red Sox manager John Farrell was impressed with Barnes’ outing, especially coming in a true relief scenario.
“I thought he was very good. He gives up the 1-2 double and then records the three strikeouts following that [in the sixth inning],” Farrell told Browne. “Went to his curveball a little bit more to get some swing and miss against some quality major league hitters. He looks poised coming in for the middle of an inning. That’s the first time he’s come in with men on base. It’s a quick out to end the threat. He looked fine.”
With the clock ticking towards the start of the season, and the Red Sox still facing several questions regarding their bullpen, there is a good chance we will see Matt Barnes in the big leagues at some point this season, if not on Opening Day.