Barnes allowed two runs (one earned) on two hits while striking out one in the fifth inning Monday against the Twins. All of the damage against Barnes came before he received a mound visit from pitching coach Dana Levangie, who told the right-hander he was tipping his pitches, Tom Keegan of the Boston Herald reports. "I was tipping," Barnes said. "He told me, and I was able to fix it right away. It doesn't matter how good your stuff is, if they know what's coming, it's going to get hit. I feel like stuff-wise today was great, and then the swings I got on pitches following the mound visit were more in line with how I felt about my stuff." There are a lot of eyes on Barnes this spring as he competes to become Boston's closer, a role he's been close to but never held.
Barnes allowed one hit and struck out two in a scoreless inning Saturday against Atlanta. This was the best of Barnes' three Grapefruit League outings. He battled fastball command the first time out followed by a problematic curveball in his second outing. Saturday's appearance provides a semblance of relief for those betting on Barnes being Boston's closer.
Barnes allowed one hit and two walks while striking out two over one inning Tuesday against the Tigers. Barnes wiggled out of a bases-loaded, two-out jam by striking out Victor Reyes. It was the second straight outing in which Barnes labored; he gave up four hits and three runs in his first appearance. He placed the blame on his curveball. "The curveball command was bad today," Barnes told Ian Browne of MLB.com. "I couldn't throw it for a strike. I thought it was an improvement on last outing. I thought the fastball played better today than it had. Command overall with the fastball didn't miss by much." Barnes is being watched carefully this spring because he has been mentioned -- along with Ryan Brasier -- as a candidate to receive save opportunities.
Barnes will make his spring debut Saturday against the Mets, Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com reports. Barnes had been scheduled to debut next week, but he was deemed ready to go sooner. The 28-year-old right-hander is the leading candidate to close games for Boston or be the primary closer with Ryan Brasier (toe) still in the mix. Barnes has been an important bullpen arm the last three seasons, but his track record as a closer is limited and spotty. He has a career 5.22 ERA in the ninth inning (29.1 IP). Barnes can bring the heat but has battled control problems during his career and walked 4.5 batters per nine innings in 2018.
President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said Barnes is a candidate to close for the Red Sox in 2019, Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com reports. With Craig Kimbrel still a free agent, Dombrowski named Barnes, Ryan Brasier, Steven Wright and Tyler Thornburg as internal options who could potentially take over as Boston's closer in 2019. Barnes and Brasier are apparently the two frontrunners for the gig, though the Red Sox could also bring in another capable back-end arm prior to the start of the season. The 28-year-old righty compiled a 3.65 ERA and 96 strikeouts in 61.2 innings of relief in 2018.