Barnes Dominating In First Year With Red Sox
BOSTON—Matt Barnes clearly belonged in a remarkable group of elite starting pitching prospects in the 2011 draft. Still, some scouts wondered why the righthander with a mid-90s fastball and excellent curve wasn't racking up bigger strikeout numbers in college.
That was not to slight what Barnes accomplished at Connecticut, especially in a junior year when he went 11-5, 1.93 with 117 strikeouts in 121 innings. But it seemed fair to ask why he wasn't punching out 10 or 12 or 14 batters per nine innings in the Big East Conference.
No one is asking those questions anymore. Barnes, taken with the No. 19 pick in 2011, has been singularly dominant in his first pro season, first in five starts at low Class A Greenville (0.34 ERA, 42 strikeouts and four walks in 262⁄3 innings) and through seven starts at high Class A Salem (where he had a 1.32 ERA, 44 strikeouts and seven walks in 44 innings). For much of the year, he had led the minors in strikeouts per nine innings. He also won selection to the Futures Game.
The commitment to the changeup did not come easily, especially in Greenville, where Barnes could dominate with his fastball and curve. Still, he bought into the importance of developing the pitch. Though he throws it hard (high 80s), he had been able to sell it well and elicit mis-hits with it. The complete mix makes it conceivable he could move quickly.
"It's hard to find a guy with that stuff," Greenville manager Carlos Febles said. "He can probably go to Double-A this year and I think he can be in the big leagues next season. He's that good. He reminds me of (Justin) Verlander, that mound presence where the game never speeds up on him."
• Lefthander Drake Britton threw five no-hit innings in his Double-A debut and started his Portland career with 102⁄3 shutout innings.
• Center fielder Jackie Bradley was promoted to Portland after hitting .355/.478/.519 for Salem.