Matt Barnes

Is Matt Barnes bullpen's new secret weapon?

John Tomase
March 06, 2015 - 5:37 am
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Red Sox have insisted they view right-handed prospect Matt Barnes as a starter, but on Friday morning, manager John Farrell opened the door for Barnes to make an impact in the bullpen. It's easy to see why. On Thursday night, Barnes struck out three in two innings of shutout relief against the Twins. His fastball touched 97 mph, he featured a tight breaking ball, and he looked very much like a guy who could help solve a power deficiency at the back of the bullpen. There are probably two spots up for grabs, Farrell said, with Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa, Edward Mujica, Craig Breslow, and Anthony Varvaro safe bets to make the squad. Lefty Robbie Ross and right-hander Alexi Ogando are the favorites for the last two spots, but could Barnes alter that equation? "If everyone was healthy, we probably viewed two spots in competition among a group of four or five," Farrell said. "Does an outing like last night increase the pool? I don't know that we need to anoint that yet, but that was a really good outing to watch." The Red Sox selected Barnes, 24, in the first round of the 2011 draft out of UConn. He made five relief appearances with a 4.00 ERA last September, but has been used almost exclusively in the rotation (72 starts, 1 relief appearance) in the minors. "I don'€™t have a whole lot of history with Matt Barnes, but that was a different guy than even what we saw in September," Farrell said. "Sometimes you look for silver linings in an otherwise frustrating year and talking with Matt Barnes, he has a better understanding of who he is as a pitcher, what'€™s required at the major league level and the constant focus and concentration needed, all those were talked openly by him. And he went out last night and demonstrated some of the things he learned last year. Breaking balls much tighter. I'€™ve never seen that kind of velocity from him. He was a different guy last night." Might that stuff play in the bullpen? "We have an understanding what the physical abilities are," Farrell said. "And you try to get a sense of how are they managing the inning. When things are starting to go, when they'€™re getting challenged inside of an inning, are they handling it in a calm matter? Is their poise and composure remaining the same? Or are you seeing it play out a little bit?" File this one under: Something to watch.

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