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Barrett flying high after dream debut

Apr 1, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT

AP AP

NEW YORK — Every young ballplayer dreams about his major-league debut, conjuring up images in his mind how that monumental event will look and feel. All too often, though, reality douses fantasy, and debut performances sometimes are best forgotten.

So imagine the expression on Aaron Barrett’s face yesterday afternoon, after the rookie reliever not only made his big-league debut on Opening Day, not only retired the side with a pair of strikeouts, not only did all this in the ninth inning of a tie ballgame in front of 42,442 fans at Citi Field and not only did all this with his parents, wife and other family members in attendance, but emerged from it all with his first career win to boot.

“I think I’m finally taking a deep breath and realizing that that happened today,” he said about 30 minutes after the Nationals wrapped up their wild, 9-7, 10-inning victory. “It was everything I could’ve ever imagined for my debut. That was unbelievable.”

That Barrett even found himself sitting in the Nationals’ bullpen yesterday was surprising enough. The 26-year-old right-hander made the Opening Day despite no experience above Class AA Harrisburg (where he notched 26 saves last season) and a spring training locker located at the far end of the clubhouse at Space Coast Stadium, reserved for minor leaguers who have little-to-no chance of making the team.

Barrett, though, impressed club officials all spring with his performance (10 2/3 scoreless innings) and demeanor. And so he was given the final spot on the Opening Day bullpen roster.

Rookie relievers typically make their debuts in non-competitive situations, perhaps with their team getting blown out. Yet there was Barrett warming up in the top of the ninth yesterday alongside closer Rafael Soriano, told he would be entering if the game was tied heading into the bottom of the inning.

“The situation called for it,” manager Matt Williams said. “He matched up well with the guys who were coming up, we thought. He’s ready to pitch every day, so we got him out there. He did great.”

Barrett admittedly had nerves as he trotted in from the bullpen.

“Either way, I was gonna be jacked up, regardless of what the score was,” he said.

Upon reaching the mound, Barrett was surprised to see shortstop Ian Desmond waiting for him.

“Before I even start throwing my warm-up pitches, (he) just looked at me and said: ‘Hey, just take a second and look around. Just take this all in,'” Barrett recalled. “I’m just really glad he did that, because I’ll never forget that moment that he did that for me.”

First baseman Adam LaRoche had a similar message for Barrett before he faced his first batter. Then it was down to business, and Barrett looked anything like a fresh young rookie. Showing complete confidence in his dominant slider, he struck out Omar Quintanilla, got Travis d’Arnaud to fly out to right, then struck out Ruben Tejada.

And when the Nationals rallied for four runs in the top of the 10th, Barrett found himself the pitcher of record, victorious on his very first day in the major leagues. He’s the first pitcher in Expos/Nationals franchise history to win his big-league debut on Opening Day, only the third pitcher for any franchise to do it over the last decade.

Is it any wonder Barrett had the biggest smile of anybody in the Nationals’ clubhouse late yesterday afternoon?

“Just to be in that situation … tie ballgame, and in my debut I end up getting my first win,” he said, shaking his head. “I mean, couldn’t have chalked it up any better.”

  1. unkyd59 - Apr 1, 2014 at 12:11 PM

    … Ian……(smh)…. :)

  2. Eugene in Oregon - Apr 1, 2014 at 12:16 PM

    I was out of the country for a week, then in-transit for 58 hours (including 35 hours stuck in stand-by purgatory in the Phoenix Airport — damn you U.S. Airway!). Arrived exhausted, but the 1st thing I did was watch the replay of the game (without knowing the score) I had planned to watch live. When Mr. Barrett appeared on the mound, all I could do was go ‘huh?’ I follow the Nats pretty closely, but when I left on March 21 was he even on the radar screen for a potential 25-man roster spot? Wow. I guess I have some catch-up reading to do. Anyway, GYFNG!

  3. Sonny G 10 - Apr 1, 2014 at 12:39 PM

    Barrett could help make our BP really dominant. Storen was also excellent yesterday.

  4. Section 222 - Apr 1, 2014 at 12:39 PM

    Great piece Mark. Yet another example of the mensch that is Ian Desmond.

    I look forward to the day when pitchers, especially relievers, don’t care about getting the win, but that’s a minor quibble with a very cool sidelight of yesterday’s game. Let’s hope this is the first of many dominant outings for Barrett. As I said in the last thread, if he and Storen are consistently good this year, that will be huge for us.

    • Doc - Apr 1, 2014 at 1:00 PM

      Thanks Sect. 222!

      I was going to say the same thing—Desi, the team captain! Good times, or bad times, always there to provide support and confidence for fellow players!

      Desi is the MenschMeister!!!

  5. David Proctor - Apr 1, 2014 at 12:43 PM

    Re: Strasburg’s velocity yesterday, everyone who pitched on both teams, except Clip, had velocity below their norms. Leads you to believe it was an issue with the gun.

    • Eric - Apr 1, 2014 at 12:52 PM

      Also leads you to wonder just how fast Clip was throwing!

    • Ghost Of Steve M - Apr 1, 2014 at 12:57 PM

      Multiple radar guns there. Cold weather, building up arm strength many times lead to a decrease in velo.

      Stras averaged almost 94 on his fastball from Brooks.

      By the way, Parnell injured his elbow.

      • RPrecupjr - Apr 1, 2014 at 1:03 PM

        Looks like I was a bit prescient in dropping him from my fantasy squad even before yesterday’s game

    • NatsLady - Apr 1, 2014 at 1:08 PM

      Here is fangraphs article on Stras’ velocity.

      Should we worry?

    • alexva6 - Apr 1, 2014 at 3:22 PM

      Some days you just don’t have your best fastball. Let’s let it play out a little before jumping to any conclusions.

      Heresy, I know.

  6. Ghost Of Steve M - Apr 1, 2014 at 12:43 PM

    My concern was that Barrett was warmed and sat down and warmed again. That usually spells disaster but instead he dominated the batters. I’m sure he was running in Kure adrenaline.

    • Ghost Of Steve M - Apr 1, 2014 at 12:44 PM

      Kure is Pure with a K for strikeout!

      • Faraz Shaikh - Apr 1, 2014 at 3:03 PM

        Nice save! Good to have you back from wherever you had vanished over winter. :)

  7. masterfishkeeper - Apr 1, 2014 at 12:50 PM

    Interesting article on Strasburg’s velocity. Says that Parnell is headed to the DL with a partial ligament tear:

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/stephen-strasburg-and-early-season-velocities/

    • Eric - Apr 1, 2014 at 1:03 PM

      Sheesh. Is it September yet? I feel like I’ve already endured a season’s worth of stress and concern for the season’s future.

    • Section 222 - Apr 1, 2014 at 1:05 PM

      Thanks for posting this link. Really interesting analysis. Dave Cameron is one of the best guys out there in my opinion and his considered judgment seems to be, in sum, that you just can’t tell what Stras’s lower velocity yesterday means. Could be time of year, could be weather, could be the radar gun, could be a problem. We’ll just have to wait and see.

    • Ghost Of Steve M - Apr 1, 2014 at 1:14 PM

      I’m looking at Pitch f/x and Strasburg averaged 93.6 with a max of 95.8 on his 4 seamer. That’s the official radar. Sure, down 1.02% in velo from last year but different conditions but where are they pulling this 92.7 stat in that Fangtaphs blog. That’s not accurate.

  8. scnatsfan - Apr 1, 2014 at 1:04 PM

    I just keep refreshing to see Ramos news…

    • Doc - Apr 1, 2014 at 1:14 PM

      Yeah, me too!

      Usually comes in the afternoon, I guess???

      • Ghost Of Steve M - Apr 1, 2014 at 1:18 PM

        I’m hearing it was painful to close his hand tightly. Any Doctors in the house?

      • Eric - Apr 1, 2014 at 1:32 PM

        I’m not a doctor, but Knorr said on 106.7 this morning that he thinks it might be the hamate. Here’s the Wiki snippet I posted in the last thread:
        The hamate bone is the bone most commonly fractured when an amateur golfer hits the ground hard with a golf club on the downswing. The fracture is usually a hairline fracture, commonly missed on normal X-Rays. Symptoms are pain aggravated by gripping, tenderness over the hamate and symptoms of irritation of the ulnar nerve. This is characterized by numbness and weakness of the pinky finger with partial involvement of the ring finger as well, the “ulnar 1½ fingers.”
        The hook of hamate is particularly prone to fracture-related complications such as non-union due to its “tenuous” blood supply.[2]
        It is also a common injury in baseball players. Several professional baseball players have had the bone removed during the course of their careers.[3][4][5][6][7] This condition has been called “Wilson’s Wrist”.[8]

        Wilson’s wrist, eh? Unbelievable if that’s what this is.

      • Ghost Of Steve M - Apr 1, 2014 at 1:41 PM

        Eric, that could be it. The doctor he is seeing in Baltimore is the Dr. Andrews of hands & wrists. He’s in good hands.

      • Eric - Apr 1, 2014 at 1:50 PM

        If it is, I have to think Ramos is one of the first guys to happen upon an injury already bearing his name…either that or some joker updated Wiki in anticipation of this outcome ;)

      • JW - Apr 1, 2014 at 2:05 PM

        Hamate is a fairly common baseball injury. Both Zimmerman and Espinosa have had it. The downside is that it saps power for up to a year after returning to play.

    • scnatsfan - Apr 1, 2014 at 1:21 PM

      I’m an oral surgeon. If he broke his jaw I would be the man.

      • Ghost Of Steve M - Apr 1, 2014 at 1:42 PM

        Nice profession SCNatsFan.

      • micksback1 - Apr 1, 2014 at 3:27 PM

        “Dammit Jim, I’m a doctor” too tempting, had to post lol

  9. tcostant - Apr 1, 2014 at 1:10 PM

    I posted this on the other boards, but it is still true. If anyone wants to go to opening day, the Nats just realease add’l seats on there website. You can even get four together, if you wish:

    http://mlb.mlb.com/ticketing/singlegame.jsp?c_id=was

  10. Candide - Apr 1, 2014 at 1:20 PM

    Re Barrett – I love Kool-Aid as much as the next guy, but let’s see him for a few months before we anoint him the next Mariano Rivera. He wouldn’t be the first guy to ignite everyone’s imagination and then sputter when the league figures him out.

    The above should in no way be interpreted as a wish to be proven correct.

    • Ghost Of Steve M - Apr 1, 2014 at 1:46 PM

      Look no further than Ian Krol from last year for domination to so-so, but Barrett has a killer curve which can buckle batters.

      • David Proctor - Apr 1, 2014 at 1:54 PM

        Agreed, though as you said, the difference between Krol and Barrett is that Krol really couldn’t throw anything consistently except the fastball. Even when he had great success, it was almost all with the fastball. No guarantee that Barrett turns out to be special, but at least he has a strong secondary pitch to go with the good fastball.

      • jd - Apr 1, 2014 at 2:03 PM

        Ghost,

        I like what I see from Barrett, and he looked real composed out there yesterday but Candide’s point is well taken. In Baseball it’s all about doing it in the long run. Many, many pitchers have a burst of success and then fade away.

      • Ghost Of Steve M - Apr 1, 2014 at 2:15 PM

        jd, of course most of that comes from the lack of scouting. Short-term success with adjusting to the batter’s adjustments.

        Anyone who doesn’t expect bumps in the road aren’t dealing with reality.

      • adcwonk - Apr 1, 2014 at 3:03 PM

        No guarantee that Barrett turns out to be special, but at least he has a strong secondary pitch to go with the good fastball.

        Listening to Charlie & Dave during the game — they explained it as follows (noting that Matt Williams had seen/coached Barrett in the Fall Arizona league): Barrett has a wicked slider, and he always had it. What’s new this year is that he good command of his fastball, so now he can properly set up that slider.

        (Or at list that’s the best I can remember it!)

    • Sec 3 My Sofa - Apr 1, 2014 at 2:34 PM

      Who said anything about anointing? The kid just had the best day if his life. Enjoy the moment.

      Yeah, I know: “Moment’s over.”

      • Candide - Apr 1, 2014 at 3:47 PM

        Enjoy the moment.

        Enjoying the 24 hours.

  11. micksback1 - Apr 1, 2014 at 3:31 PM

    MLB insiders rated his slider as the best in the Spring. A lot of weapons on this team, with Braves taking a hit with injuries and the Mets and Phillies just not very good, I wonder if the Marlins are the team that Nats have to be aware of? just a thought.

    • Sonny G 10 - Apr 1, 2014 at 3:57 PM

      After they trounced the Rockies yesterday, I tend to agree with you here.

      • Eric - Apr 1, 2014 at 4:10 PM

        I think my eyes literally bugged out of my head as I did a double take upon seeing that score. Just incredible.

        I love that Fernandez’ grandma was able to be there for it.

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Apr 1, 2014 at 5:24 PM

        Meh. It was one game. Let’s see what they do for three months.

        Everything before the All-Star break is just for pole position.

  12. NatsLady - Apr 1, 2014 at 3:58 PM

    Stephania Bell was on the ESPN Fantasy Focus podcast today and discussed Ramos at some length. She is also worried about Harper, will the effects of his collision linger or even get worse as time passes?

    • Eric - Apr 1, 2014 at 4:11 PM

      I’ve been trying to ignore my worry on the Harper front, but it’s there, peering around from behind my concern about Ramos.

      And, behind that is my (much, much lower) concern about Stras.

      Oy!

  13. NatsLady - Apr 1, 2014 at 4:37 PM

    Ramos tweeted this.

    Thanks to everybody for your support i love you i will be back soon— Wilson Abrahan Ramos (@WRamosC3) April 1, 2014

  14. adcwonk - Apr 1, 2014 at 5:03 PM

    Anybody notice this — possibly the worst start to a season possible?

    Don Baylor broke his leg while catching Vladimir Guerrero’s ceremonial first pitch yesterday. (As Baylor has had myeloma in the past, that makes this a big bummer, rather than kluzty humor)

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/nationals/don-baylor-breaks-leg-while-catching-1st-pitch/2014/04/01/d3e544b0-b958-11e3-80de-2ff8801f27af_story.html

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