Barrett stock continues to rise

By Allen LaMountain
ASST. SPORTS EDITOR
alamountain@starhq.com

   With a stellar performance against the Johnson City Cardinals on August 10 in which he surrendered no earned runs for the second consecutive start, Elizabethton Twins lefty Ricky Barrett placed himself atop the Appalachian League's earned run average leader board over Danville's Anthony Lerew in a battle that could go down to each hurlers last start of the season.
   Barrett (6-1, 1.37) has struck out 60 Appy League batters in 53 innings of mound work, which is a positive sign for a guy who doesn't consider himself an overpowering type of pitcher, but rather relies upon a changeup as his "out pitch."
   "In college at San Diego University, I didn't throw the change very much due to the fact that college hitters use aluminum bats," said Barrett. "My college coaches never really gave that pitch a chance, but maybe that forced me to develop other pitches like my overhand curve. You see guys in the majors like Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux have great success with it. I think it's a great pitch to have."
   Barrett -- drafted this season in the seventh round, and signed by Twins scout John Leavitt -- got more of a chance to develop the pitch in spring training, and it has become his signature pitch.
   "He really throws off the hitters timing with that pitch," said Twins pitching coach Jim Shellenback. "He has good command of it, and it's a good pitch to have if you don't have real overpowering stuff. It's not hard on the arm and you can throw it in almost any situation."
   Barrett, who lists his high school coach Rob Dodd as his mentor, helped him develop the pitch and Barrett said of him, "My college coaches didn't really like it, but whenever I was struggling or having problems with something mechanical I would call him. He really has been my mentor, and when I signed my contract I bought him a $1,000 watch just to show my appreciation to him."
   Barrett likes the fact that his change-of-pace, "Makes my fastball look that much quicker. A lot of times the slider times with the hitters swing, so that's why in different situations I may go with the change. Depending on the count I may throw the slider at 0 and 2, then come back with the change later in the count. I try to mix it up and try not to pitch any hitter the same way twice."
   Not particularly big -- the Twins list Barrett at 5-10, 190 pounds, but is closer to 5-9, 180 -- Barrett knows that he isn't going to blow away hitters, even at the rookie league level where he faces kids just out of high school saying, "The players at this level are very aggressive, yet more disciplined than at the collegiate level even though a lot of them are younger. Overall I would say that the competition is almost the same as Division I in college."
   Having completed an entire college season before joining the Twins in extended spring training Barrett has thrown a lot of innings this season but says, "Here they keep the pitch count and don't let you go over it by too much. In college there were games where I threw 150 pitches or more."
   Having that collegiate experience also given Barrett the advantage of being more mature and more adaptable to a league where consistency is hard to find.
   On the down side of that however, Barrett said that the number of innings has, "Kind of slowed my fastball a bit. In college I was in the '88-92 miles-per-hour range, but now I'm about 87-89, so my velocity has dropped a bit. I think after the season though, I'll get some rest and it will come back to where it was."
   The college experience has made things a lot easier for Shellenback when dealing with Barrett's development as a professional.
   "Coming out of college, Barrett was much more polished that a lot of our younger guys," Shellenback stated. "I haven't had to work with him as much on his mechanics or his strategy of how to pitch guys in different situations. The guy knows how to pitch."
   Barrett credits dad Rick and mom Cinnie with providing lots of support along the way saying, "I think that I have the best parents that I can imagine as far as giving me support, and I lean on them when times get tough."
   Barrett still has a year to go to at San Diego to complete his degree in business management, and expects to go back to finish his degree in the fall.
   When asked what he has tried to work on improving during his first taste of pro ball Barrett said, "Just trying to throw more strikes, be more around the plate consistently, and keep up my confidence level."
   That shouldn't be difficult given his dominating performance in his first season of professional baseball.