WASHINGTON - It was major news just over a year ago when Aaron Barrett returned to the Major Leagues.
After a series of arm and shoulder problems, and surgeries, the right-hander from Indiana pitched for the Nationals in a game at Atlanta in September 7, 2019.
The television cameras caught him overcome with emotion in the dugout after his one-inning stint against a tough Braves’ lineup – and teammates came to congratulate him.
This year, the personable pitcher, known as “Bear”, has toiled out of the limelight at the alternate site in Fredericksburg. He is on the 40-man roster but has not appeared for the Nationals this season.
“He is doing very well,” Tommy Shields, the co-field coordinator in player development, told Federal Baseball on Wednesday. “He has sort of embraced the fact he is not going to throw 96 anymore. I think for a long time he was trying to get back to there.”
“He has been very effective throwing 90-92 with a good slider and good change,” Shields added. “He is pitching a lot better than he was probably a month ago. He is finishing off hitters in a variety of fashions. He is throwing his slider away while throwing his sinker to righties and lefties. He is probably pitching as good as I have seen him pitch.”
Barrett, 32, was drafted by the Nationals in 2010 out of the University of Mississippi in the ninth round.
He made the Opening Day roster in 2014 and pitched in 50 games that season for manager Matt Williams. Barrett came out of the bullpen in 40 games the next year – then dealt with injuries for the next few years.
He returned to pro ball with Auburn in the New York-Penn League in 2018 then pitched for Double-A Harrisburg in the Eastern League last year before he was called up to the Nationals.
The video of Barrett being informed of the callup – with Harrisburg manager Matt LeCroy next to him – went viral. Barrett pitched in three games for the Nationals in 2019.
Barrett, in an interview in July, 2019, envisioned his return to the majors.
“I have dreams about it all of the time,” he told this reporter. “I am 190 percent ready to go back to the big leagues and contribute and get guys out. I feel ready. It is just a matter of when they want to make the call.”
Another pitcher with Major League experience at the alternate site is Sterling Sharp, who was drafted by the Nationals out of college in the 22nd round in 2016.
As a Rule 5 player, he made his debut in the majors in early August for the Marlins and also pitched for Miami at Nationals Park on Aug. 23.
Sharp, 25, allowed four runs and retired just one batter in that game. That turned out to be his last outing with the Marlins, who returned him to the Nationals after he posted an ERA of 10.13 in four games with the Fish.
On Tuesday, he threw one inning in Fredericksburg in an instrasquad game.
“It was a quick inning – 16 pitches,” Shields said. “He has great sink on his fastball; he got three ground balls. That is what he does – he is very athletic and his ball just naturally sinks.”