EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

August 24, 2011

Changing His Stripes

Boston's first-round pick was a Yankee diehard

By Christopher Smith

Red Sox first-round draft pick Matt Barnes grew up a Yankees fan in Bethel, Conn.

His favorite player always was Derek Jeter but over the past fews years, it's been New York reliever Joba Chamberlain.

"I just like the way he goes about the game, and I like the intensity that he brings to the mound," said Barnes, who does not compare his pitching style to Chamberlain's. "I just kind of like his mound presence and his demeanor."

Barnes, who was drafted 19th overall, is one of a few Yankees fans who Boston selected this summer.

But Barnes always had respect for the Red Sox organization despite his allegiance to the men in pinstripes.

"I was a Yankees fan, and I would always root for the Yankees, but being a baseball player and being a fan of the game, I always respected what the Red Sox have," said Barnes, who signed for a reported $1.5 million bonus.

"I respected the players and coaches ... and how good their teams actually were. Just because I didn't root for them growing up doesn't mean that I didn't understand how good they were and didn't appreciate how good they were."

As of right now, the former Yankees fan has been assigned to the Lowell Spinners. He is not scheduled to pitch this season. He just is working out with the team to learn the ropes of professional baseball.

Barnes is a 6-foot-4, 205-pound right-handed hurler who went 11-5 with a 1.93 ERA and struck out 117 batters in 121 innings pitched as a junior for UConn this past spring.

The unanimous Big East Pitcher of the Year limited opponents to a .163 batting average.

"It's kind of nice to experience a little bit of pro ball," he said.

And Barnes, who played for the Wareham Gatemen of the Cape Cod Baseball League in 2009 and 2010, enjoys staying in New England.

"Because there are a lot of people in the area that I know," Barnes said.

Barnes, who was one of eight pitchers named to the NCBWA All-America team, is looking to improve his secondary pitches. His fastball, which is in the mid-90s, is his go-to pitch.

He also throws a breaking ball.

"This year at UConn and last summer I really started to develop a changeup that I really like," Barnes said. "It really helped me a lot this year and I gained some confidence with it."

Triple Threat

Matt Barnes nearly won the Big East pitching "triple crown" this spring:

Wins: 11-5, 1st

Strikeouts: 117 in 121 innings, 1st

ERA: 2.01, 3rd