August 30, 2013 at 12:20 PM
PAWTUCKET, R.I. -- Pawtucket Red Sox manager Gary DiSarcina had just one piece of advice for right-hander Matt Barnes prior to his Triple-A debut on Thursday night.
"We tell all the guys who come up here, 'just be yourself, don't try to do too much,'" DiSarcina said. "Whether you go from Double-A to Triple-A [or] Triple-A to the majors, you get yourself in trouble when you try to impress and try to do too much. For me, it's just relax and pitch your game."
Barnes managed to do just that against the Syracuse Chiefs (WAS) in his debut, displaying his typical 91-95 mph fastball during five scoreless innings of work in which he struck out seven, walked two, and allowed three hits. The 23-year-old showed off his full repertoire in the start, using a 76-78 mph curveball four times to dispatch Syracuse hitters while mixing in a 83-87 mph changeup among his 86 pitches.
"He definitely flashed two plus pitches in his fastball and curveball," DiSarcina said. "[He was] aggressive, pitched inside to both lefties and righties. I thought he handled himself very well. He did a very good job of just pitching his game."
"He threw a couple of curveballs in 2-2 counts, early in counts and in hitter’s counts. That’s huge. When you’re able to command your curveball and secondary stuff and keep hitters off balance [along with] a 94, 95, 96 mph fastball with late life, that’s a pretty good combination to have."
While Barnes impressed DiSarcina with his fastball and curveball, it was his intrepid attitude when facing the Chiefs' bats that wowed the first-year manager, who admitted Thursday night was his first time seeing the 2011 first-round pick.
"I thought what he did really well was that he pitched to contact. He wasn't trying to strike guys out," DiSarcina said. "He was in the zone and down with his fastball. He was not afraid to give up a hit, and when you pitch like that and force guys to swing the bat, you’re going to get some weak contact."
The weak contact that Barnes was able to induce allowed him to enter the sixth inning having thrown just 82 pitches, but after earning the first out of the inning on four pitches, DiSarcina pulled the UConn product.
"You want him to end on a positive note," DiSarcina said on his decision to pull Barnes, who threw over 100 pitches in his six of his last seven outings in Double-A Portland. "He was in line for the win and pitched a solid 5 1/3 innings. You want him to have that good taste in his mouth after his first outing in Triple-A. He was outstanding."
Barnes' start continued this year's trend of top-20 pitching prospects making their debuts in Pawtucket after beginning the season in Portland, joining Anthony Ranaudo, Brandon Workman, and Drake Britton. For DiSarcina, that speaks to the talent of the organization's player development staff and the depth the Red Sox have just below the majors.
"It’s a testament to the scouting department for signing those guys," DiSarcina said. "It’s [also] a great compliment to [Portland manager] Kevin Boles and [Portland pitching coach] Bob Kipper and the rest of the guys who have touched them, worked with them, and helped them along to be able to come up here, and in Workman’s case and Ranauado’s case contribute.
"It’s important to understand that Double-A [talent] and below is a very valuable asset to have. Guys like [Garin] Cecchini, [Christian] Vazquez are very capable of coming up [to Triple-A] next year and performing. It gives you the flexibility of helping the big league team and not getting hurt at other levels."
Photo Credit: Matt Barnes by Kelly O'Connor
Kevin Pereira is a Staff Writer for SoxProspects. Follow him on Twitter @kevinrpereira.