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Barnes’ Window is Closing Quick

Barnes’ Window is Closing Quick

| On 18, Mar 2014

The Cleveland Indians open the 2014 season with new expectations despite many questions. The Indians’ 25-man roster will look different than the group that won 92 games and lost the American League Wild Card game to the Tampa Bay Rays. While the roster may change and the expectations grow, Cleveland will need answer many questions this spring before opening the season in Oakland on March 31. Today, we look at one of the Indians’ players who will need to take his game to the next level.

Just two short years ago, Tribe left-hander Scott Barnes was considered one of the organization’s top prospects.  Just one year ago, I lobbied for Barnes to get a chance in an Indians bullpen that was seemingly all right-handed.  Now, Barnes is a nearly-forgotten man that could possibly lose his spot in the organization before the team breaks camp in just about a week.

Acquired in the Ryan Garko trade back in 2009, Barnes is converted starter who made a name for himself back in the 2011 season and put himself on a fast-track to the Indians rotation.  A few injuries here and there landed Barnes in the bullpen during the 2012 season and he appeared in the big leagues sporadically for the following two years.  In his limited work, Barnes has had some mixed results by going 0-1 with a 5.20 career ERA in his 22 games at the Major League level.  He has struck out 26 and walked 10 batters over the course of his short career.  Last year was a particular disaster for him, as he posted a 0-1 record with 7.27 ERA with the Indians and a 3-3 mark with an 8.48 ERA in 24 minor league games as well.

Now at 26 years old, Barnes has little chance to make the Major League roster out of camp.  With Marc Rzepczynski cemented as the team’s primary southpaw and then newly acquired Josh Outman the odd’s-on favorite to be the second lefty, Barnes will likely be left out when the Indians head to Oakland next Friday.  With Nick Hagadone, Colt Hynes and possibly even Kyle Crockett ahead of Barnes on the lefty-reliever depth chart as well, Barnes could be a candidate to be designated for assignment if and when the Indians need an opening on the 40-man roster.

With Jason Giambi likely headed to the Major League disabled list to start the season, he will need to be added to the 40-man roster in order to be counted as on the Indians roster.  One player will need to be DFA’ed in order to make room for the 43-year old veteran.  In addition, there are other candidates to make the team that are not currently on the 40-man roster including Nyjer Morgan, David Aardsma, Aaron Harang, Elliot Johnson, Matt Treanor, Matt Carson and Jeff Francoeur.  Any combination of one or more of these players would need to be added to the 40-man in order for them to make the Major League squad as well.

Unfortunately for him, Barnes is a very possible candidate to be removed from the team’s 40-man roster and would likely be picked up by another organization if that occurred—simply because he’s left-handed.  While nothing is a guarantee, Barnes could also be saved for that same reason that the other teams would want him.

Other candidates that are possible DFA material include Frank Herrmann, Nick Hagadone, Justin Sellers and David Adams.  These are all veteran players with MLB experience that may be better off in another organization rather than spending the season with the Columbus Clippers.  This scenario, of course, is only possible if any of these players do not make Terry Francona’s Opening Day roster.

With the deck stacked against him, Barnes is doing a good job in fighting for his spot in the organization, so far.  In his first five spring training appearances this season, Barnes has worked five innings while allowing just one run on four hits with two walks and two strikeouts.  The numbers total to a solid 1.80 ERA and Barnes has also added a save of one of the Indians many victories this spring.

If Barnes does enough to hold his spot in the organization, he is likely headed to spend another season with the Clippers—which would be his fourth in a row.  If the Indians go in this direction, the main purpose is likely because he is left-handed; a position where the team has struggled somewhat in the recent past.  If they choose to cut ties, a change of scenery very well may be the best medicine for Barnes’ career.

Photo: Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images