10/06/09 10:59 AM ET
Tribe learns more about prospect Barnes
Lefty has been on the go since being acquired from Giants
By Jonathan Mayo / MLB.com
The left-hander was drafted in the eighth round of the 2008 Draft by the San Francisco Giants. Just a few months later, he was the starter for the Class A Augusta GreenJackets as they steamrolled their way to a South Atlantic League title.
Just a little over one year later, there was Barnes, a product of St. John's University, on the mound again with another championship hanging in the balance. This time, it was with a new organization, but the results ended up being the same.
"I wasn't trying to think about it too much, but it was there in my head," said Barnes, who gave up two unearned runs in five innings to help Cleveland's Akron affiliate defeat Connecticut for the Double-A Eastern League crown. "I thought, 'This is crazy, hopefully this is going to happen for a second year in a row.'
"It really was a privilege. Getting called up in the last month to Akron, they were a special team all year. That's the best-gelled team I've ever been a part of. It showed on the field. I felt so comfortable pitching with those guys."
That's saying something considering Barnes made just six starts with Akron in the regular season, and just nine overall in the Indians' organization after coming over from the Giants on July 27 in the Ryan Garko trade. He may have come through in the postseason finale, but he barely had time to catch his breath and get his bearings post-trade. So the Indians asked him to head to Goodyear, Ariz., to participate in their instructional league program for a week.
More than anything, it was a meet-and-greet so both parties could get to know each other a little better. Barnes threw a few bullpen sessions, but didn't pitch in any games before heading home Monday morning.
"He was there for us to get more familiar with our organization and for us to get more familiar with him, to make sure we have a solid plan for him in the offseason so he can maximize that going into Spring Training," Tribe farm director Ross Atkins said. "They wanted me to get a feel for what the Indian way is like," Barnes added. "It was for me to get a comfort level, so I have a better understanding so I can just jump into things at the start of Spring Training.
"The more people you know, the more comfortable you feel. I didn't mind taking a week out. I felt it would benefit me a lot. I thought it was a positive week, a positive trip."
It certainly was a positive year for Barnes, capped off by that championship win. He went 14-5 with a 3.41 combined ERA, most of that coming with San Jose, the Giants' affiliate in the Class A Advanced California League. After throwing 142 1/3 innings during the regular season, there wasn't much need for Barnes to throw much at instructs. More than anything, the Indians wanted to help their new southpaw with the mental side of things. It's not that he's lacking in that department; it's just that the Indians want to help him harness the impressive qualities he already has.
"He's extremely confident and very aggressive," Atkins said. "He's got a great tempo and attacks the strike zone. He's been impressive. Mentally, when we talk about maximizing it, it's because there's so much to work with. How do we channel that intensity, that aggressiveness so he can pitch 200 innings [at the big league level]?"
Barnes does seem to have one thing going for him on that front. It may have only been two starts in the Minor Leagues, but considering he's given up two earned runs over 11 innings and gotten two rings as a result of them, it's at least clear Barnes has the stomach to handle big situations on the mound. "I think it's just the way I approach the game," Barnes said. "Ever since I was little, I approach it with an even keel. I just treat every game like it's my last. That really helped me in those big games. I could take a step back and look at it like any other game. It might be a big game to other people. I just try not to make it out as big as it is."
"There is some value there," Atkins said about Barnes' playoff prowess. "When you see a guy in those situations at a minimum, be himself, that's a good sign that he'll be fine with the transition to the big leagues. Emotionally, you can't re-create those sitautions. There's no question the desire to win is going to be greater, you will feel more team pressure. When he's just himself in those games, that's all you're looking for."
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.