Manager Davey Martinez spoke with Rainey today at Tropicana Field before they made the decision.
“He came in today and said he felt a little bit better,” Martinez said. “We just want to be safe and make sure that he is 100 percent when he comes back. That was the decision right there. At this point we just want to make sure that he is going to be totally fine. We don’t want any setbacks.”
“You never want to see anybody get hurt,” Barrett said. “Obviously, Tanner is a big blow to the team. Tremendous stuff, he’s had a fantastic year all year. Obviously, when that happens it creates opportunity. I am super excited to be back and hopefully help these guys win some games.”
Martinez said the Nats went with Barrett because of his track record, his experience, his pitching ability and his clubhouse presence.
“He’s been here before,” Martinez said. “He’s a veteran guy. He’s throwing the ball well down there, so he was the guy we chose. I like that he understands what we are trying to do here. I know he can help us against right-handed hitters. I love him. He brings a lot of energy. He’s a great guy, great teammate. I’m happy that he is back.”
Barrett has seen it all, from the minors to the majors and back. He has battled serious injuries himself over the years and has found a way to persevere and return. With all that experience, he says pitching and training at the alternate site has been an unusual experience, to the point of calling the baseball simulations there “not realistic.”
“Fredericksburg has been a grind,” Barrett said. “I have been through some things mentally and physically challenging. The alternate site challenged me quite a bit. But what I have learned facing the same guys over and over and over again and trying to get everything that I’m good at makes me successful. Just really honing in on the process and trying to be in the present moment.”
The fact that they are not facing other minor league teams and hitters that they don’t know nearly as well as their teammates makes it tough for pitchers to surprise anyone.
“I can have a ton of success, one outing, two outings, doing everything I’m capable of doing, and then that next outing what I’m really good at and getting zero results because that guy has now faced me for the 15th time,” Barrett said. “I’m not surprising anybody at that point.”
With the “Groundhog Day” repetitiveness of life in Fredericksburg, Barrett said some unusual circumstances occur when there just are not enough players to play full-squad sim games.
“Brandon Snyder was warming me up one game in the bullpen, (I was) feeling good,” Barrett said. “I go out there and the first guy I face is Brandon Snyder. I’m like, ‘You literally just caught me for 20 pitches.’ I’m not tricking him at all at that point.”
Barrett also had a great story about taking on Jake Noll and the playful banter they would exchange at each encounter.
“Jake Noll is hilarious” Barrett said. “Every single time I am up to pitch he tells me he’s going to hit a homer off of me. So, it’s like that inter-web of competitiveness. Making little side bets here and there. So he tells me he’s going to hit a homer off of me and I say, ‘You’re not going to get a homer off of me, Jake.’
“One outing I went three up and three down and he starts walking to the plate. My inning is over and I see him walking up and I’m like, ‘All right, Jake, get in the box.’ It was just fun. I did get him to pop out to first base, so he definitely lost that bet. Just little things like that trying to keep things loose down there, because it is repetitive. But the guys are hanging in there and they are doing a great job.”
Barrett also gave a tip of the cap to the coaching staff in Fredericksburg, which includes Randy Knorr, Brad Holman, Michael Tejera, Brian Daubach and others.
Holman told me last week that the shortage of available players means it’s just a pitcher, a catcher and a hitter in the box. So coaches have to get creative in judging whether long fly balls are outs or extra bases.
For a pitcher, it can sometimes get confusing.
“Jeff Garber, most of the time, is playing first base and Tommy Shields, our other coordinator, he’s calling the shots what’s a hit and what’s not,” Barrett said. “There were a couple of times where I had to question a routine fly ball. ‘Double,’ he says and I’m like ‘What? No. No shot.’ There were a couple of times Andrew Stevenson, (who) traditionally plays left field or right field, and there would be a ball hit and I’d yell out, ‘Stevie, you got that?’ And he’s like, ‘yup!’ ‘All right, that’s an out.’ So, just having fun like that.”
Today is a big day for Barrett. But last Thursday was an even a bigger day for the Barrett family as his wife, Kendyl, gave birth to their second child, a son named Paxtyn.
The pitcher described how he was able to leave Fredericksburg and travel to Florida for a few days to be with Kendyl for the birth.
“I pitched and I got the call from my wife that she was going to the hospital,” he said. “Obviously, I can’t fly. I rented a car and drove 13 hours down to Florida and got there. (She) went into labor. Thursday morning my son was born healthy. Everyone’s great. My wife is healthy, everyone’s awesome. I only get three days, so I knew I also needed to get back. Especially if I wanted the opportunity to potentially have a shot to go back to the big leagues.
“So, I get back in a rental car and drive 13 hours back to the alternate site and arrived. We had a game on Saturday night at 6 p.m. So they called me and said ‘Hey, when do you get here?’ I’m like, ‘I’m literally showing up at game time.’ So I get there. I’m on fumes, crush a Red Bull. They asked me if I could pitch, I said, ‘Sure. Why not?’ So I got out and dominated my inning and then I think I passed out.”
With today’s big news, Barrett said he now shares a milestone with his new baby boy.
“He’s making his debut this week, and then I’m going to make my 2020 debut this week too.”