Aaron Barrett’s return to the majors last season was one of the top feel-good stories league-wide. Four years after Tommy John surgery, and three years after fracturing his right elbow throwing a pitch off the mound while rehabbing, Barrett worked his way back to the bullpen in Washington, D.C., then broke down when the reality of what he’d accomplished hit him in the dugout following his first inning back.
“You dream about the moment,” Barrett said after the first of his three appearances for the eventual World Series champions last September.
“You try to picture the moment,” the reliever continued. “You try to visualize what it’s going to be like and you — whatever moment or whatever happens it’s unlike anything you envisioned, and so after the outing was over I’m just walking off and I’m just you know, all the emotions just hit me, just, you know, ‘You did it, man. You did it.’ And it was just a cool moment to share with my teammates, and obviously the amount of support that I’ve had from this organization and all these guys in this clubhouse, just a moment I’ll never forget, and that’s where the wave of emotions hit me, and it’s just a special feeling.”
Barrett put up a 2.75 ERA, a 3.50 FIP, 16 walks (2.75 BB/9), and 62 Ks (10.66 K/9) at Double-A Harrisburg in the Nationals’ system in 2019, before he was called back up in the final month of the regular season, returning to the majors for the first time since 2015. He didn’t appear in the postseason, but he was part of the club that won it all, and going into 2020, the right-hander said he is happy to just be a pitcher again, with the injuries, all the hard work, and the storybook return behind him.
“Obviously everyone knows the journey, the last four years, and the comeback last year,” Barrett told reporters when he spoke at WinterFest in January, “and I think another normal offseason for me, being able to train and no restrictions, no rehab, just be normal Aaron Barrett again, just being able to be the guy that I once was, and obviously going into camp and just trying to compete as hard as I can to try to win a job. That’s something I’ve always done, going into camp every single year with a job to do, with a goal to make that team, and that’s kind of what I’m going for this year. I feel great, I feel healthy, and the comeback has happened, it’s over, and now it’s time to go pitch.”
After Tommy John surgery, and the subsequent procedures after the fracture in his elbow, the now-32-year-old reliever said it’s not a stretch to say he’s as strong as ever, when one reporter posed a question about the current state of his throwing arm.
“Yeah, sure, we can go with that, why not,” Barrett joked.
“I got a new ligament, I got enough hardware in there. There’s no doubt it’s stronger, and that’s what’s crazy to me, is obviously I missed all that time, but I truly feel like I can pitch for — there’s no telling how long now. Which is great, because I know that I’ve trained my body, and mentally I know where I’m at, nothing is going to be able to faze me, in my opinion, with what I’ve gone through, but knowing that basically my arm is indestructable, should be good to go, so I’m excited.”
Where does he fit in what’s become a crowded bullpen mix in D.C.? Barrett might be on the outside looking in as Spring Training begins, but who’s going to count him out at this point? Will we see the reliever in the majors again in 2020?