It was almost a full month before Matt Barnes could get his season officially started, but three starts in and all seems to check out for Pawtucket's flame-throwing right-hander.
Forced to start the season in extended spring training to build back the strength in a tender pitcher shoulder, Barnes finally made his 2014 debut for the PawSox on April 27th.
“It’s always frustrating, nobody wants to sit in extended," said Barnes. "It’s one of those things that you have to deal with.
"Physically I feel great, fully recovered. Mentally I think I’m in a good spot. I’ve made some progress...so, I’m ready to go.”
Barnes’ arrival in Rhode Island was the final piece of a prospect-laden pitching rotation that features five young arms - Allen Webster, Rubby De La Rosa, Anthony Ranaudo, Brandon Workman - all expected to play out at the next level.
The Connecticut native was happy to return the fold and get a front row seat to watch some of the best pitchers in the Red Sox system.
“We’ve played together for a couple of years now,” said Barnes. “It’s always fun to go out and watch those guys pitch and hopefully they all do great things.”
Barnes, the organization's top right-handed arm, has worked 16 innings over his first three starts as he continues to get comfortable working in gameday situations once again.
“He was pounding the strike zone, getting ahead in the count early every at-bat,” said catcher Christian Vazquez who has caught Barnes in two of three starts. “His stuff was good. His fastball is strong.”
“The first game, I felt a little out of rhythm just trying to find my mechanics,” said Barnes. “I think that was it just being the first start of the season. The second one I felt a little more comfortable.”
Over his last two starts he has given up six walks to only five hits, but has struck out ten and allowed just three runs.
It’s early in the season, and even earlier for Barnes, who knows that it’s all a work in progress at this point.
“I’m still trying to work on everything,” said Barnes. “Fastball command got better in the second start, but still needs to improve. I need to stay through the ball a little bit better. I need to work on the command of my curveball. So we’re going to kind of work on those couple of things and move forward.”
Barnes is 1-1 with a 2.25 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and 12 strikeouts.
Mookie Betts – Has hit safely in 27 of 29 games this season and reached base in 59 straight regular season games dating back to last season.
Through the farm
Pawtucket (AAA) - Ryan Lavarnway is adjusting well to his new role as a first-baseman. Working daily on his fielding with coach Bruce Crabbe is paying off as the former full-time catcher has just two errors in 147 chances thus far.
Portland (AA) - Left-hander Brian Johnson picked up the win in his Double-A debut, tossing 5 1/3 innings at Binghamton on Saturday. The 2012 first-rounder gave up three hits and two unearned runs, striking out three.
Salem (A+) - Second baseman Reed Gragnani is riding an eight game hit streak, and is currently batting .400. The University of Virginia product has eleven multi-hit games in 22 played.
Greenville (A) - Trey Ball made his season debut on April 27th after spending the first weeks of the season at extending spring training. The seventh overall pick a year ago has tossed five innings apiece in each of his two starts, yielding six runs on 15 hits and a walk. The lefty did bump up his strikeout total from two in his first start to six.