Aaron Barrett was working his way back from Tommy John surgery back in 2016, when he fractured his elbow throwing a pitch off the mound while rehabbing.
“It’s something I wish I could forget,” Paul Menhart, the Nationals’ organization’s pitching coordinator, told Washington Post writer Chelsea Janes, after witnessing and hearing the sound of Barrett’s elbow snapping.
The reliever underwent extensive surgery on his right arm, and in spite of the nature of the injury, he was determined to return to the mound.
Two years of hard work later, Barrett returned to the mound in the Nationals’ system this past summer, after the team stuck with him through the rehab process.
In total in 2018, he threw 20 2⁄3 innings, posting a 1.74 ERA, eight walks, and 26 Ks for the New York/Penn League’s Auburn Doubledays.
He elected to become a free agent in November, but signed on with the Nationals again, and is in camp this Spring continuing to work in the hope that he can reach the majors again.
Barrett talked last week about the organization sticking with him through it all and giving him another opportunity to come to big league camp this month.
“The Nationals could’ve easily kind of wrote me off,” Barrett told reporters in West Palm Beach, FL.
“But I think just a credit to the front office and the training staff and the type of organization the Nationals are. We’re family, and they treat guys like family. I’ve been blessed to be able to continue to rehab with them. They’ve seen it through, and it’s just a tribute to them to stick with me and see it through, and I’m ready to show all the hard work — and show that it’s going to pay off.”
Davey Martinez, who didn’t join the organization until the winter of 2017-18, was asked this past week what he thought of the fact that the Nationals did stick with Barrett.
“Well, you think about what he’s done in the past in the bullpen and helping these guys get to the playoffs,” Martinez said, “and then also stories have it where he went all the way down to rookie league and was actually helping rookie league pitchers and then going to A-ball and helping A-ball pitchers, I mean, why not have a guy like that around? A guy that’s not going to quit, a guy that — you learn from guys like him and being around him and the inspiration, and he comes to the ballpark every day, big smile on his face, but he’s ready to compete every day, and like I said, I can’t speak enough about the person that he is and the competitor that he is, I mean, like I said, having him around, I just hope he has a great camp and he continues to build every day and get stronger every day.”
The second-year skipper said he’s even seen some signs of progress from the now-31-year-old reliever, who hasn’t pitched in the majors since he was 27 years old.
“Look, I got to meet Aaron last year,” he explained, “... and watching him pitch in the big leagues prior, I know how engaged he gets and how fired up he gets, and it’s just in his blood, it’s in his heart to compete and what he went through and when I saw him last year, just the first time I saw him throw off the mound last year, and just to see his face and to see how he was so excited to even be pitching off the mound, now all of a sudden to be in big league camp again, it’s a testament to who he is, it really is. He walked in my office when he got here, and I told him this is probably not the end of the road for you right now, this is just the beginning for you, I mean, your comeback starts now and just keep building, keep building your strength, keep getting better. His velo today was a lot better than it was last year, and that’s a good sign, so I said, ‘Hey, you’ve worked this far, you’ve got to continue with the baby steps, and you’re going to be back.’
“‘I really believe you’re going to pitch in the big leagues, just because of who you are and the work you’ve put in.’”