As April winds to a close, Nationals right-hander Aaron Barrett has to be pretty pleased with his first month in the majors. There is still one game to go, but he has been able to post solid numbers.
He allowed a run on two hits against the Angels on April 23 and two walks with the bases loaded against the Padres April 27.
Overall, Barrett is 1-0 with a 1.17 ERA in nine games over 7 2/3 innings. He has given up four hits, one run and five walks in that span, and has struck out 11 batters.
He was sent back to Triple-A Syracuse for a span of 10 days in more of a traffic move, and his buddies with the Chiefs had a few questions for him about his experience in the big leagues.
One minor league player joked with him, "What, you give up a hit and you are sent down?' Barrett laughed that off, because that, of course, wasn't the case. When he went back to Syracuse, he had yet to allow a run in the big leagues.
But Barrett can see how big league hitters go after his stuff versus the way they hit him in the minors.
"You can definitely tell the difference between (Double-A) Harrisburg and here," Barrett said. "(In) Syracuse, you are facing some big leagues hitter up there, as well. You can see a little bit of difference. I think there is a lot better approach. Guys are sitting on a certain type of pitch. They are looking for a certain pitch in certain counts. You can definitely tell for sure."
Barrett said he has had to be careful with his pitch selection and location in the majors and some of the pitches he threw in the minors don't always bring the desired result in the majors.
"You are going to run into that," Barrett said. "You are going to get away with a few things at the lower levels, but as long as I execute the pitch that I want to throw in that location, I am able to get guys outs."
But then there are games like opening day when he came in and shut down the Mets in his one inning, two of the three outs on swinging strikeouts. In both instances, Barrett set up the hitters with his fastball and then got them out with his slider.
"It definitely gives you confidence, especially at the beginning," Barrett said. "I think everyone, as far as rookies go, you throw yourself up there and you want to see how successful you are going to be. Being able to get at this level is a confidence booster and makes you want to continue to get better and better and makes me want to execute every pitch that I throw."
Many professional baseball players spend a good portion of their careers on a shuttle service between the minors and the majors. As late as 2012, Barrett was still in low Single-A with Hagerstown. Those are the seasons when self-doubt can creep into your mind and you have to battle it away.
"I think when I first got into pro ball, I second guessed myself," Barrett said. "I think I just got away from just attacking guys. Our pitching coordinator and our pitching coaches throughout the minor league systems (preach the idea) of implementing throwing strike one, being aggressive, pounding the fastball. I think that helped me realize that I need to pound the zone. I am not going to get guys out by throwing balls. For me to be successful, I got to pound the zone and make my pitches and throw them where I need to. That has just helped me."
It has been a whirlwind month for Barrett. Not only has he become an important stopper in the bullpen for the Nationals, but he also has heard from family, old friends and coaches from back home. Since the start of the season, those who have reached out to him to congratulate him include the most famous son of his hometown of Evansville, Ind. - Dodgers manager Don Mattingly.
"Don Mattingly was probably the biggest one to reach out to me because I grew up playing with Preston, his son," Barrett said. "He texted me saying, 'Congratulations," which is pretty cool. So hopefully at some point when we play the Dodgers I will be able to catch up with him."
The Dodgers make their only visit to Nationals Park from May 5-7.