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Nationals' reliever Aaron Barrett on how throwing too much led to his elbow injury

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Aaron Barrett showed up for his interview with the media at NatsWinterFest on a scooter, with crutches... and revealed that he had ankle surgery, which won't affect his rehab from Tommy John surgery, which he told reporters was caused by "literally throwing too much...

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Aaron Barrett went on the DL on June 11th with a bicep strain after he was lifted from a game against the Miilwaukee Brewers.

"He was uncomfortable," now-former Washington Nationals' skipper Matt Williams said at the time. "We'll see how he is tomorrow."

It was Barrett's 30th appearance of the season to that point, in the Nats' first 60 games.

He had a 5.06 ERA, a 2.21 FIP, six walks (2.53 BB/9) and 28 Ks (11.81 K/9) in 21 ⅓ innings, over which opposing hitters had a .244/.311/.354 line.

He returned a month later, throwing 7 ⅔ scoreless, but was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse after a rough outing against the Arizona Diamondbacks in which he gave up four hits and three runs in a ⅓ of an inning.

"Warming up, not going into the game then pitching the next game and then warming up in the sixth inning and then the seventh inning and then pitching in the eighth inning and things like that..." -Aaron Barrett explaining how he thought throwing too much led to injury

Barrett never pitched for the Nationals' top minor league affiliate.

He underwent Tommy John surgery in September.

He told reporters at Nats WinterFest on Sunday that he had surgery to remove bone spurs and bone chips in his left ankle last week.

"Obviously nothing has been announced yet, anything like that," Barrett said, "but last year actually I got an MRI on my ankle and I had bone spurs and bone chips in there, but decided at the timing of everything, it was just best to pitch through it, get it taped and I was fine. But now, under circumstances, since I'm out, it was just best case scenario to get this fixed now so I don't have any problems moving forward with my throwing program and stuff like that. So it was an easy procedure, nothing major, just had to get an easy scope, clean up, but all in all I'm officially fixed and ready to come back a new man."

The ankle was a problem for Barrett as far back as 2014, but he pitched through the issue.

"I was getting it taped every day, every game," he explained. "I can't sit here and say, 'You know, maybe I didn't have as much mobility on it when I was landing and that's the reason why through the kinetic chain maybe I started having some elbow problems but I think the bottom line was I was literally just throwing too much. I think that's why I ended up having the elbow issue."

"I feel great. I honestly have more range of motion now then I did before I had surgery, so I think that's probably a good sign." -Aaron Barrett on rehab from Tommy John surgery

Throwing too much?

"Just basically warming up, not going into the game then pitching the next game and then warming up in the sixth inning and then the seventh inning and then pitching in the eighth inning and things like that over the course of the season," Barrett said. "I think I pitched in 30 of the first 60 games and was hot in 15 additional of those, so when you're hot 45 of the first 60 games, I think it's a pretty heavy workload and obviously I was trying to manage that the best that I could but it eventually caught up with me, but you know, it is what it is and ready to come back stronger than ever."

Part of the problem, Barrett admitted, was the fact that he wasn't comfortable saying no when called upon to pitch and part of it was making the sore vs injured distinction.

"I think there's not a guy doesn't pitch through a little soreness," he said.

"That's just kind of part of it, part of the game. You're putting so much stress on your arm all the time. So I think there were times where I felt that there might have been something going on, but at the same time, you know, in my situation I didn't think that I had the leverage to really say, 'No.'

"When you're kind of the young guy on the totem pole and all of us down there are competitors and we want to get the ball every day. You want to be that reliable guy to take the ball.

"Every day you watch Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen and Matt Thornton take the ball every day. And you're trying to establish yourself in the big leagues and when you're kind of a younger guy, you kind of don't have that benefit to be able to say, 'No,' unless you have that five-to-ten-year tenure. So it's a fine line to be able to say, 'No,' but you know obviously it's a learning process for me and I definitely learned that there are times where I'm going to have to say, 'No.'"

His rehab is on schedule, Barrett said today. He's working hard and hopes to start throwing at the end of January or the beginning of February.

"On schedule," Barrett said. "I feel great. I honestly have more range of motion now than I did before I had surgery, so I think that's probably a good sign."

"I'm going to do everything I can to get back next year and I plan to come back stronger than ever."