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November 12, 2012

Aggressive Barnes most exciting pitcher in Sox system

Former No. 1 draft pick from University of Conn. learned from up-and-down season

New Boston Red Sox coach John Farrell is on record saying he wants his pitchers to be aggressive by attacking the strike zone early in counts.

Keeping that in mind, right-hander Matt Barnes is a starting pitcher who Farrell and new pitching coach Juan Nieves should have a lot of fun working with.

“I think the one thing that I’ve always done and developed throughout my years is I’ve always attacked (with) my fastball and established my fastball early in the game,” said Barnes by phone last week. “I like to go into a game and say, ‘Here’s the fastball. If I locate it well right now, I’m going to make you guys get yourself out off my fastball.’ … I love to be aggressive. I love to attack the zone.”

Boston GM Ben Cherington has stressed his intent to build the next championship team by strong drafting and minor league development. That said, Barnes is one minor leaguer certainly worth getting excited over.

The 6-4, 210-pounder, who Boston selected in the first-round (19th overall) in the 2011 draft out of the University of Connecticut, was 7-5 with a 2.86 ERA in 25 starts combined between Single-A Greenville and Single-A (high) Salem this past season.

Baseball America recently ranked him the top pitcher in the Red Sox minor league system. He also was the 13th best prospect in baseball on Baseball America’s 2012 mid-season Top 50 prospect list.

Barnes led Red Sox minor league pitchers in strikeouts (133), was third in ERA and WHIP (1.05) and fifth in batting average against (.225).

“Our pitching coach Kevin Walker in Salem preached to us ... ‘As you move up the levels, you have to be able to get outs with your fastball in the strike zone.’” Barnes said. “I really put that to heart along with what I’ve always done.”

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