Sox prospect Barnes looking to build off 'successful' first season

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Sox prospect Barnes looking to build off 'successful' first season

His first professional season was a bit of a learning experience for right-hander Matt Barnes, the Red Sox first pick (19th overall) in the 2011 draft out of UConn.

I had a blast this season, said Barnes, the native of Bethel, Conn. The first half was more than I could have expected in terms of performance. Then the second half I learned a little bit about myself, about the game. But overall I thought it was a pretty successful year and I had a blast meeting new guys and getting acclimated to the Red Sox system.

He is home in Connecticut now, where his family hosted 16 guests on Thanksgiving Day with another 24 expected for dinner the day after. One of the perks of being part of the Red Sox organization is that as he eventually inevitably -- moves up the system, he also moves closer to home Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket before Boston.

Thats one of the things that I really love about playing for a team thats in the Northeast is that the closer I get to the big leagues the closer I get to home, which is really nice, he said. My parents are able to come out and see me play, which is really important. My family and friends can come and see me play, which is really nice.

His first season, though, was a bit of an adjustment to professional baseball, to a longer season, to better hitters. Although Barnes was picked in the 2011 draft, he didnt sign until August that year and did not appear in a game in the Sox organization that season.

I think I learned how to actually pitch, Barnes said of his first season. And when I say learned how to pitch, I mean learned how to incorporate different pitches and to turn more to the finer aspects of pitching rather than just kind of throwing. I learned how to deal with failure a little bit because I saw some of that in the second half, for sure. And just kind of learned how to deal with the first full season, because it can get a little bit long, especially the first year, and what I need to do to take care of my body so that I put myself in the best position possible to succeed in the second half.

Barnes had plenty of success early in the season. He began 2102 with Single-A Greenville, where he was nearly unhittable, as his .130 opponents average attests. In five starts, he posted a record of 2-0 with a 0.34 ERA. In 26 23 innings, he allowed just one run on 12 hits with 42 strikeouts and just four walks, for a WHIP of 0.60, a 14.2 strikeouts-per-nine innings ratio, and 10.50 strikeouts-to-walks ratio.

But, after he was promoted to High-A Salem, Barnes faced more of a challenge. In 20 starts with Salem, he was 5-5 with a 3.58 ERA, and a .250 opponents average. In 93 innings, he gave up 85 hits and 25 walks with 91 strikeouts, for a 1.183 WHIP, 8.8 K9, and 3.64 KBB.

I think the biggest adjustment were the guys in Salem were just a little bit more seasoned, Barnes said. They had been there a little longer, in pro ball a little longer. The guys were a little older. Their pitch selection was a little bit better. They didnt chase pitches as much. And I think they hit mistakes a little bit better. You have to mix pitches a little bit more and you have to make your pitch when you need to. A 2-0 pitch, you cant throw it right down the middle of the plate and say Here you go to a 22-year-old college hitter whos seen good fastballs for the last couple of years. Whereas maybe in Low-A you have some guys who are a little bit younger who are maybe still trying to get adjusted to pro ball. And as you get older and you played against kids who are more seasoned sometimes you can get away things.

He started out strong with Salem, posting a record of 2-1 (1.93) in five May starts. But, his numbers began to slip as the season went on. He was unbeaten at 3-0 in June but his ERA climbed to 3.57. In five July he was 0-3 (4.98), and in five combined starts in August and September he was 0-1 (4.35).

Still, he is pleased with his first season.

I think there were two things that kind of went hand in hand, he said. I think my fastball command was exceptional in the first half. It dwindled a little bit from time to time in the second half but overall I thought my fastball command was really good and was happy with it. The second thing was development of a changeup. It went from kind of there, to use it once in a while, to a pitch that I started to throw at points 10, 11, 12 times a game. thats really helped me out, especially when the curveball wasnt as consistent as Id like it to be.

Barnes, who turned 22 in June, is 6-feet-4, 205 pounds. His fastball is generally 93-95, and can touch 97, 98. Some of the inconsistency, he thought, can be attributed to the longer season.

I think the fastball command, it was just my body getting a little bit tired toward the end, he said. Lower half wasnt as strong, arm was a little tired just from throwing every single day for five or six months.

The season is definitely longer than college and summer ball combined. And it can drag in points but thats why you have your teammates and people helping you through it. But at the end of the day you got to remember youre doing something you love. Your body gets a little tired, and I think thats what everybody says the first year adjustments are like. You have to adjust to your first full season, and once you get to your second season time flies by. So Im looking forward to that.

Barnes could start next season back with Salem, or the Sox could send him to Double-A Portland. He wont find out until the end of spring training, though. Barnes has been working out and will begin his throwing program next month. Hell head to Fort Myers in early February to begin his second full season. Hell have some goals set for himself then.

Im going to go out there and try to perform to the best of my capabilities and I want to, like Ive always tried to do, I want to be as consistent as possible and try and give the team a good outing every time I step on that rubber, he said.

Barnes could be part of the big league team by 2014. Hes trying not to focus on that for now.

I want to get there as soon as possible, as Im sure everybody in minor leagues does, he said. They want to try and get to the big leagues as soon as possible. But I try not to focus on where I go, when I go. I really dont have any control over that other than just how I perform. I just try to focus on how I perform and trying to perform to the best of my abilities and kind of let the rest take care of itself.

Danny Ainge says Lonzo Ball has declined pre-draft workout with Celtics

Danny Ainge says Lonzo Ball has declined pre-draft workout with Celtics

BOSTON -- Like most NBA executives, Danny Ainge loves to get as much intel on players before picking them as he can.  
 
And with the No. 1 overall pick, Ainge knows he has to do all he can to absolutely get this one right.
 
That’s why any thoughts he had of drafting Lonzo Ball are likely out the window after the talented UCLA guard refused to work out for the Celtics.
 
“We tried to get him in for a workout and he politely said no,” Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, said on 98.5 the Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich show.
 
Lonzo Ball’s desire (or his dad Lavar Ball’s desire; hard to say who in the Ball camp wants him in L.A. the most) to play for the Los Angeles Lakers is one of the worst-kept secrets leading up to next month’s NBA draft.
 
And with the Lakers holding the No. 2 pick in the draft, turning down the Celtics only increases the likelihood of  Boston passing on him and instead drafting University of Washington star Markelle Fultz.
 
“It’s not ideal,” Ainge said of Ball's decision to decline working out for Boston. “Listen, we’ve drafted guys that wouldn’t come in for workouts before. It’s not the end of the world. We’ve watched them play a ton. We have a lot of information on them. Sometimes players don’t want to come in, not because they don’t like you, they see our roster. They think they would prefer to go to another team.”
 
The Celtics, like most teams, have been mum publicly as to who they would take in the draft. But all indications at this point in the process are pointing towards them selecting Fultz with the top overall selection.
 
And the fact that Ball, the projected number two pick even before the draft lottery order was established, refuses to work out for Boston will only increase the likelihood that Fultz will be a Celtic and Ball and his camp will get their wish which has always been to don a Los Angeles Lakers jersey.

Celtics-Cavaliers preview: Game 5 is about respect for Boston

Celtics-Cavaliers preview: Game 5 is about respect for Boston

BOSTON – From the outset of this season, the Boston Celtics were swimming upstream when it came to getting respect. 

No matter how many wins they racked up, no matter how many upsets they managed to pull off, they were never going to do enough to satisfy the court of public opinion which wanted one thing and one thing only from the NBA: A third installment of Golden State against Cleveland in the NBA Finals. 

The Warriors did their part by running through the West with 12 wins in as many playoff games. 

Meanwhile, the Celtics will try to not just stave off elimination tonight, but continue to delay what so many believe is an inevitable Golden State-Cleveland Final.

Boston’s Al Horford understands that while the league this season has seen lots of individual success as well as teams that have overachieved, the thirst for Golden State versus Cleveland remains stronger than ever. 

“We understand that’s what everyone has been talking about since the beginning of the season,” Horford said. “For us it’s just to focus … and play the Celtic way. And just come out here and fight and we’ll take it from there.”

The Celtics did that in Game 3 with Avery Bradley delivering one of the more memorable shots in the Brad Stevens era, a game-winning three-pointer that hit the rim four times before falling with 0.1 seconds to play as Boston squeaked out a 111-108 win.

Boston did a lot of good things in Game 4 and seemingly went into the half sensing that maybe just maybe they would even up the series at two games heading back to Boston for tonight’s Game 5 matchup. 

But Kyrie Irving picked up the slack for a foul-plagued LeBron James, lifting the Cavaliers to a 112-99 win which puts them now just a win away from advancing to the NBA Finals. 

Not only have folks both in the media as well as fans who have rooted for this series to be over, even merchandise sellers like Dick Sporting Goods have anticipated this series as already being over.

“It is what it is,” said Boston’s Jae Crowder. “It’s been like that all year; a lot of guys counting us out. At the same time, we’re trying to put ourselves in position to win each and every game.”

While that has been the goal, it certainly hasn’t worked out that way in this series. 

Despite Games 1 and 2 being at the TD Garden, the Celtics lost both games by a total of 57 points. 

And while they won Game 3 and had the Cavaliers on the ropes in Game 4 before losing, they know their chance to play NBA Finals spoiler is just about up. 

“We know that’s the Finals that everybody wants to talk about, what everybody is looking forward to,” said Boston’s Marcus Smart. “We understand it. But we work just as hard as these guys. We just have to keep going out there and working. We’re not going to give it to them, and stuff like that. We just have to make it tough on them.”