Barnes headed the right way
Promotion puts him closer to goal
After he dominated batters in low Single A Greenville - throwing 21 scoreless innings and allowing nine hits and four walks while striking out 34 in his first four starts - it was apparent that Matt Barnes was a prospect on the upward trajectory of a Saturn V rocket.
It was evident the 21-year-old righthander from Bethel, Conn., was going places.
Barnes wrapped up his fifth start for Greenville last Sunday, allowing one run on three hits and no walks while striking out eight in 5 2/3 innings innings at Lakewood, N.J., and after the no-decision, he earned a promotion to Single A Salem.
“I felt like I was able to fine-tune my mechanics and be more consistent across the board with all my pitches,’’ Barnes said. “I was extremely happy with my fastball command and being able to hold velocity deep into games. My curveball has been pretty good and I’ve been happy with how my changeup has come along in my first five starts.
“There was definitely improvement over the first five starts. I was extremely happy that I was able to command the fastball early and attack the zone.’’
When his promotion came, Barnes was ecstatic that his family was present to share the moment. They had turned out in full force for Greenville’s game in Lakewood.
“I was extremely happy and, obviously, it happened pretty quick, so I can’t complain about that,’’ said the former University of Connecticut standout. “Everybody wants to move up as fast as possible and I was just excited that my entire family was there: parents, aunts, uncles, my girlfriend, and her family were all there.
“It was after the game that they told me. I had just pitched that day and they called me in after the game and told me. My family was waiting outside and I was able to go out there and tell them. It was awesome.’’
It was a thrill that was trumped only by Barnes’s first-round selection (19th overall) by the Red Sox in the 2011 draft.
“Oh, yeah, absolutely,’’ said Barnes, who received a $1.5 million signing bonus. “The Red Sox have a great organization and I’m very fortunate to be in this organization.
“It helps that as I move up the ladder, I kind of get closer to home, so it’s nice to be able to stay on the East Coast and, hopefully, get to the Northeast soon. That way I’ll be closer to my family and they’ll be able to come and watch.’’
With his promotion, Barnes is closer.
“It’s only like an 8-9-hour drive down [to Salem, Va.] instead of 12 or 13 [to Greenville, S.C.],’’ said Barnes.
After Barnes threw 121 innings his junior season at UConn (11-5, 1.93 ERA), the Red Sox took a measured approach in his development, sending him to short-season Lowell to begin a throwing program and then to the Instructional League to get him accustomed to a five-day pitching routine.
“They took some precautions and rightfully so,’’ Barnes said. “I threw a lot of innings at UConn my junior year, so they wanted to take it easy and get me into the flow of things and get me into their program, and I’ve seen some improvements across the board so I can’t complain with the way they did things.’’
Barnes said he made strides in his approach, “just being more consistent, mechanically, and with my command as well, just being more effective with my secondary [pitches].’’
He is scheduled to make his first start for Salem Saturday in Winston-Salem, N.C.
“There’s always going to be challenges, and if you don’t challenge yourself, you’re never going to get better,’’ Barnes said. “So I’m excited to see how it goes on Saturday and see the difference in the level of talent and competition.’’
After the rockiest of starts with the Red Sox, Mark Melancon appears to have settled down in Pawtucket. He is unscored upon in six appearances while striking out 11 and walking none over 6 2/3 innings. He earned his first save April 24 against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, striking out the side in the ninth . . . Portland first baseman Reynaldo Rodriguez went 2 for 4 and hit a solo homer in the fifth inning of the Sea Dogs’ 4-3 loss to Trenton Wednesday . . . Righthander Brandon Workman improved to 2-0 for Salem with a 2-1 win over Wilmington Wednesday, holding the Blue Rocks to one run and three hits over six innings while striking out six and not allowing a walk.
Michael Vega can be reached at email@example.com.