Right-hander Matt Barnes received his first big league call-up on Monday. (Jillian Souza/Pawtucket Red Sox.)

Red Sox call up Matt Barnes to pitch out of bullpen

September 08, 2014 - 11:51 am
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The Red Sox have called up right-hander Matt Barnes from Triple-A Pawtucket. Though he has spent his entire career (save for one outing as a piggyback starter) in the rotation, the 24-year-old -- a first-round pick in the 2011 draft -- will pitch out of the bullpen for the duration of the season. Barnes had a rough start to the year. He was shut down due to shoulder discomfort as a non-roster invitee in his first big league spring training, and when he joined the PawSox, he went 4-7 with a 5.06 ERA, 6.9 strikeouts and 3.7 walks per nine innings prior to the All-Star break, struggling with his pitch efficiency and sometimes showing diminished life on his stuff relative to previous years. However, he turned his season around following the mid-year break. In his most recent outing -- a Triple-A International League playoff game last week -- he logged seven shutout innings in which he gave up three hits (a double and two singles), walked none and punched out six. It marked the sixth time in eight outings that Barnes had pitched into the seventh inning, something he'€™d done just four times in his first 65 pro games. He threw 65 of 101 pitches (64 percent) for strikes. In nine starts since the All-Star break including the regular season and Thursday'€™s outing, Barnes now has a 2.10 ERA with 7.8 strikeouts and just 2.3 walks per nine. "He was up and down most of the first part of the season," said PawSox pitching coach Rich Sauveur. "What we're trying to do is just stay compact instead of getting real long, tilting his back and trying to get his arm at a higher slot. He's done a great job working on this in the [bullpen sessions] and then carried it over to the games."  He has perhaps the best fastball in the system, a 90-96 mph offering that he can use to get swings and misses in the strike zone (as opposed to relying on hitters to chase it outside the zone). He also has a changeup that grades as a solid average offering. His curveball has sometimes graded as a below-average offering, though it showed improvement to the point of being a potentially average (and even sometimes a tick above) third pitch -- which would mean that he had a starter's repertoire, with multiple evaluators citing a pitcher like Michael Wacha as a potential point of comparison for the UConn product. However, for now, Barnes -- who was going to be added to the 40-man roster this offseason to protect him from the Rule 5 draft -- will get his first exposure to the big leagues through the unfamiliar role of the bullpen. Barnes has thrown a career-high 127 2/3 innings this year, up from 113 1/3 last year. To make room for Barnes on the 40-man roster, the Red Sox shifted outfielder Shane Victorino (out for the year following back surgery last month) from the 15- to the 60-day disabled list.

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