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Is Matt Barnes changing way Red Sox view bullpen heading into trade deadline?

Ryan Hannable
July 12, 2018 - 10:45 am

As the trade deadline approaches, a lot will be made of do the Red Sox need help in the bullpen? The way Matt Barnes has been pitching of late may change the discussion a little.

Leading into Craig Kimbrel, it has really been just Joe Kelly who can be counted on in high-leverage situations, but Barnes may be entering that equation as well.

The right-hander hasn’t allowed a run and has only allowed two hits to go along with 16 strikeouts in his last nine games, while opponents are just 2-for-31 in that span.

The biggest difference is his velocity. Barnes started the year averaging 95.1 miles per hour on his fastball, but it's now sitting at an average of 98.1 miles per hour.

“I think it’s just mechanically I am in a good spot right now,” Barnes said. “Just trying to be aggressive in the zone.”

“We made some adjustments earlier in the year after about that four or five-week mark,” he added. “We had started working things a little bit before that, but it kind of started coming together during that time period and I have been able to sustain it since then.”

Not only has his fastball had more velocity, so has his curveball, which is around 86 miles per hour now.

“That just kind of came out of nowhere,” he said. “I am just trying to throw the hell out of it. It’s been good. It’s allowed me to command it. It’s been sharper off the fastball, so it’s going well.”

Barnes has eliminated the slider from his pitch mix all together.

“It wasn’t a very good pitch,” he said. “Guys hit it. I didn’t command it. The depth wasn’t good on it, so I got rid of that pitch and started throwing the splitter instead.”

The better stuff is leading to more strikeouts as he has multiple strikeout games in three straight appearances, while also recording more than one strikeout in six of his last eight outings. Even more impressive is he hasn’t pitched more than an inning in any of those games.

Another impressive stat from this year is he hasn't allowed a hit with an inherited runner on all year.

While he hasn’t been thrown into the highest of leverage situations much this season, he has some experience with it in the past and it is something he enjoys.

“It’s fun,” he said. “You have the adrenaline. You’re going up against a team that is trying to make a comeback. To go out there and shut them down, it’s a good feeling. It’s fun.”

The Red Sox may still need to add a bullpen arm to go along with Barnes, Kelly and Kimbrel for the highest leverage situations, but Barnes’ recent emergence at least makes things a little more manageable if the team stays as is.

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