August 29, 2013

On Baseball: Barnes making a new start

By Kevin Thomas kthomas@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

MANCHESTER, N.H. - Matt Barnes was a no-show here for his scheduled start with the Portland Sea Dogs Wednesday night.

click image to enlarge

Matt Barnes, who began the season as Boston’s top pitching prospect, showed the parent team enough in Portland to merit a promotion to Triple-A Pawtucket.

2013 Press Herald file photo/Gabe Souza

Another pitcher moving on.

The Red Sox promoted Barnes, 23, to Triple-A Pawtucket, where he will make his debut Thursday. Barnes was the last of the Sea Dogs' fearsome foursome. Portland began the year with its deepest rotation ever as a Red Sox affiliate, with four starters all touted prospects -- Brandon Workman, Drake Britton, Anthony Ranaudo and Barnes.

Workman and Britton are now in Boston. Ranaudo greeted Barnes in Pawtucket.

Barnes began the season ranked the Red Sox No. 1 pitching prospect, according to Baseball America. Boston's first-round draft pick in 2011, out of the University of Connecticut, Barnes signed for $1.5-million. He was 7-5 with a 3.58 ERA in Class A last year.

Barnes arrived in Portland with the hype attributed a top-ranked pitcher and bonus baby.

But Barnes was also a Double-A rookie and he did not adjust right away to the improved competition. Barnes lasted one inning in his first start (two runs, 33 pitches) and 2 1/3 in his next (five runs).

After two starts, Barnes' ERA was 18.90

"This level challenged Matt Barnes, as it challenges many guys," Sea Dogs pitching coach Bob Kipper said. "It was a tough April for him. He turned it around in May (2.65 ERA). Stumbled in a little in June (6.86 ERA). Then you look at his July and he recovered nicely (1.74). And he's had his moments here in August."

Barnes finished in Portland with a 5-10 record and 4.33 ERA. In 108 innings, he recorded 135 strikeouts, the second highest among Red Sox minor leaguers (behind Henry Owens' 161).

Kipper readily admits "I'm not a numbers guy I look (Barnes') game as a whole, and I see how it has developed; the mental skills that have developed.

"Look at some outings he had this year that could have gone south in a hurry. But they didn't. To me, that's success.

"The game can become a grind. I've watched Matt Barnes throughout the season, win these little battles in a game -- essentially winning the grinds."

And in Kipper's view, that grind can be vital to a pitcher's development.

"When he pitches on that major league stage, he's not just going to throw his glove out and expect the game to be easy," Kipper said. "He's going to draw from some of the experiences he's had in this 2013 season and he's going to know how to win a grind.

"That has tremendous value."

Barnes' 95 mph fastball remains his dominant pitch. Both his curveball and change-up improved in Portland, but there is still work to be done.

Boston does not have to rush Barnes. Not only are there a boatload of pitchers ahead of him -- including his three former Sea Dogs teammates -- but he won't be eligible for the Rule V draft until after the 2014 season, when Boston will assuredly put him on the 40-man roster (if not sooner).

GARIN CECCHINI walked in the first inning Wednesday to extend his on-base streak to 37 games -- fourth-best in Sea Dogs history and one away from the third spot.

Cecchini is in good company on the list. The top three -- Kevin Millar (62), Kevin Youkilis (47) and Jed Lowrie (38) -- all became established major leaguers.

CECCHINI AND FIVE other Sea Dogs were chosen for the Arizona Fall League, the postseason league for some of every team's best prospects. Cecchini and fellow infielders Derrik Gibson and Travis Shaw will join pitchers Keith Couch and Noe Ramirez on the Surprise Saguaros roster.

Sea Dogs hitting coach Rich Gedman will be the Saguaros hitting coach. The team will also have prospects from the Brewers, Indians, Orioles and Rangers.

THE FINAL HOME stand of the regular season begins at 6 p.m. Friday at Hadlock Field. The newest inductee(s) will be announced for the Sea Dogs Hall of Fame.

Saturday's 5 p.m. doubleheader features a food drive for the Good Shepherd Food Bank and an appearance by Boston Bruins forward Daniel Paille. Sunday is the annual Field of Dreams Game (as well as Henry Owens' last start), and the team awards will be announced Monday.

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or: 

kthomas@pressherald.com

Twitter: ClearTheBases

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