Barnes Hoping to fill Lefty Void in Tribe Bullpen
During Spring Training the DTTWLN staff will profile and examine the coaches and players that make up and are vying to be part of the 2013 Cleveland Indians—A Team With A New Direction. Today, we examine one of the players on the 40-man roster that is in a roster battle to earn a spot on the 25-man roster.
By Steve Eby
When looking at the potential 2013 Cleveland Indians roster, the bullpen—which has been the strength of the team for two years—looks all right.
No, not alright—ALL RIGHT.
Get the picture?
When former Indians Rafael Perez and Tony Sipp were jettisoned this offseason, there suddenly became a glaring hole in the Cleveland bullpen. The Tribe still has a very solid cast with good arms in it, but all of the guys who have a solid Major League resume are all right handers.
The candidates for the lefty bullpen arms include the hard throwing Nick Hagadone, newly acquired Rich Hill, and converted starter Scott Barnes. Other candidates could include David Huff and Scott Kazmir, but those two are starting pitchers who are most likely hoping to win a rotation spot instead.
Barnes was acquired from the San Francisco Giants in 2009 in the trade that sent first baseman Ryan Garko to the Bay Area. The former eighth round pick in 2008 had some success in three starts at High-A Kinston, but then struggled some for rest of the 2009 season when he was moved up to Double-A Akron. The 2010 season was one to forget for Barnes, as he posted a 6-11 record with a 5.22 ERA for the Aeros, but he was able to put himself back on the map with an outstanding 2011 season.
Barnes went a combined 8-4 with a 3.45 ERA for both Akron and Columbus in 2011 and was on the fast track to Cleveland as the surprise-contending Indians started to fade in the summer months. As fate would have it, Barnes was bit by the injury bug when he tore his ACL in July, ending his season and his first chance to play in the big leagues. The lefty opened enough eyes during the time he was healthy, however, to put himself at the front of the Indians starting pitching prospects.
In 2012, Barnes started three games for Columbus before again getting injured, this time with arm soreness in mid-April. The Clippers shut him down for a few weeks and, much to his dismay, put Barnes in the bullpen upon his return in early May. Happy about the switch or not, Barnes was able to dominate Triple-A hitters in his new role and earned his first call up to Cleveland when Travis Hafner was put on the disabled list at the end of the month.
Barnes struggled early on while getting his first taste of Major League Baseball, but showed enough promise over different parts of the summer to keep his name on the radar screen. Barnes finished his rookie season with no record, a 4.26 ERA, 16 strikeouts, and seven walks in 19 innings pitched out of the bullpen, but his numbers are also skewed because of one disastrous outing in Cincinnati on June 14. If that game is removed, Barnes’ numbers look a whole lot more impressive as the southpaw accumulated a 1.92 ERA in his other 15 appearances.
As spring training continues to roll along, the bullpen picture appears to be just as foggy as it was at the beginning of camp. Perez, Pestano and Smith are all locks for bullpen spots and Albers is probably not very far behind them. That leaves three spots remaining for all of the other arms, assuming that the Indians keep a seven man bullpen as almost all teams do.
Allen would have to be considered a favorite to win a spot, considering his strong showing last season as a rookie. Capps is a veteran, a former All-Star and an experienced closer who will be given a long look. Shaw also found Major League success over the last two seasons in Arizona, but his spot is certainly not a guarantee as he, like Allen, has options left and could start the season in Columbus. One or two of these three will most likely make the team, leaving only one spot or possibly two spots for the group of lefthanders.
In the eyes of the fans and media, Hagadone seems to be the left-handed darling of the group. He came over in the trade for Victor Martinez and has a power arm but often struggles to throw strikes and would need to do so consistently in order to be successful. Hagadone should really only be looked at as a one inning guy as well.
Hill is more of a matchup guy—a LOOGY—and can be dominant against left-handed hitters. This, however, is Hill’s only contribution that can be counted upon, as the former starter has only thrown 31.2 innings in 40 outings over the past three seasons. This could be what gives Barnes a leg up on the competition.
Barnes could be used as an innings eating, long relief option or could be used as a matchup man against lefties. He features an above average fastball with a lot of good movement, a tight slider and a changeup that he will throw at any time in the count. Barnes’ throws strikes and mixes up his arm angles, which makes him more difficult to hit.
If the Indians decide to go with two lefties in the bullpen, Barnes certainly has a very good chance to crack the opening day roster. If they decide to only go with one southpaw, however, Barnes will have his work cut out for him. When Perez was shut down last week with a shoulder strain, it could also turn out to be another opportunity for a reliever like Barnes to earn a spot in Cleveland as well.
However it has to happen, Barnes is just hoping that that he can help contribute to a bullpen that is more than just all right.
Photo: Jordan Bastian/MLB.com