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Washington Nationals reinstate reliever Kyle Barraclough from IL; option him to Double-A Harrisburg; What’s next?

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Kyle Barraclough has been rehabbing from the shoulder issue which landed him on the IL, and on Wednesday he was optioned to Double-A Harrisburg.

Chicago Cubs v Washington Nationals Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo talked after the trade with Miami’s Marlins for right-hander Kyle Barraclough this winter, about hoping for a bounce-back campaign from the reliever after a rough second-half for the then-28 and now-29-year-old in 2018. Rizzo and Co. on the Nats’ front office acquired Barraclough from the Fish in return for international slot value which Miami needed as they pursued and ultimately signed Victor Victor Mesa and his brother Victor Mesa, Jr.

“We took advantage of —” Rizzo began in an interview with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies, “— Miami was trying to come up with some international spending money to do what they’re trying to do, and we thought it was a good value for Barraclough who — his stuff is terrific, has had some early success in the big leagues, struggled a little bit in the second half of last year, but we’ve seen enough of him up close and personal to know what his capabilities are.”

Overall in 2018, his fourth season in the majors, Barraclough put up a 4.20 ERA, a 4.98 FIP, 34 walks (5.50 BB/9), 60 Ks (9.70 K/9), and a .194/.325/.350 line against in 55 2⁄3 innings on the mound (with a .172/.308/.299 line against vs lefties; and a .215/.341/.396 line vs right-handed hitters), though, as Rizzo mentioned, the second half did not go well.

Barraclough posted a 13.50 ERA, with a 9.24 FIP, 7.43 BB/9, 8.78 K/9, and .367/.486/.667 line against in 13 1⁄3 IP, after a dominant pre-All Star Break run in which he had a 1.28 ERA, a 3.63 FIP, 4.89 BB/9, 9.99 K/9, and .126/.254/.217 line against in 42 1⁄3 IP.

Through 32 games and 25 13 IP this season, before he ended up on the Injured List on June 15th with radial nerve irritation, Barraclough had a 6.39 ERA, a 6.08 FIP, 12 walks (4.26 BB/9), 30 Ks (10.66 K/9), and a .299/.377/.542 line against.

Before he ended up on the IL, Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez talked, after a rough outing in a game against Arizona in D.C. in which he gave up three hits (one a home run), one walk, and threw a wild pitch, about what he’d seen from the right-hander that had him concerned about Barraclough.

“His velo is a little down and his secondary pitches are just not good right now,” Martinez said.

“Slider, he can’t even throw it over for strikes, but his velo is down 92-93, but for a while there he was throwing a pretty good changeup, couldn’t throw that today either.”

Barraclough’s velocity has dropped in each of the last four seasons, from an average of 96.6 MPH in 2016 to 95.1 in 2017, 94.1 in 2018, and 93.7 this season, which Martinez said just adds to your problems when the location isn’t there either.

“When your velo is down, and again, he missed his spots,” Martinez explained, “... so that’s tough when you’re not hitting your spots and your velo is down, then all of a sudden now instead of 0-2, 1-2, you’re getting 2-2, 3-2 on hitters.”

Asked if he thought Barraclough was healthy, Martinez said, “He says he’s healthy yeah.”

A day later though, he ended up on the IL, though Martinez acknowledged at that point that as he spoke to reporters the previous day, Barraclough was in talking to trainers about there being something wrong with his shoulder.

“Yesterday as I did my post game, I had no idea that he was hurt,” Martinez said.

“[Barraclough] went to the trainer’s room and said he had some tingling in his forearm ... so they took a look at him and it’s a radial nerve irritation, which I don’t have any clue, but he’s going to get evaluated by the doctor today and we’ll know more about what’s going on, but he said he felt it after the game, so he kind of got nervous.

“We’ve just got to get Barraclough fixed, per se, and get him ready to go. This season, we’ve still got a lot of games left, so hopefully this is not a long-term thing and he can come back and help us win games.”

Martinez had talked the previous night about searching for a fix.

“We’re going to have to look at — Paul [Menhart] said he’s going to go back again today, and I’ll look at his mechanics again, see where his arm slot is again, see where his front shoulder is, if he’s coming forward again with his head.

“We’ll look at all that stuff, and we’ll go from there, but like I said, when you’re throwing basically with one pitch that he can get over, that’s tough to do.”

In a press release yesterday, the Nats announced that they’d returned Barraclough from a rehab assignment, reinstated him the IL, and optioned him to Double-A Harrisburg.

The Nationals have been stashing players they think they’ll need, or could need in a hurry at Double-A this season (with their Triple-A affiliate in Fresno), so that might be a good sign for Barraclough’s near-future prospects, assuming he’s healthy, but it’s also a sign that they are happy with the bullpen mix in the majors for now.