Matt Barnes made only five starts for Class A Greenville before being promoted to Class A Advanced Salem. Based on the way the 2011 first-round pick pitched in his Carolina League debut, he may not last long at his new level.
Boston's No. 13 prospect struck out a season-high 12 and allowed one run on four hits over six innings Saturday as the Red Sox held on for a 6-4 victory over the Winston-Salem Dash.
Barnes (1-0) allowed a single Marcus Semien leading off the bottom of the first, then calmed down and recorded seven consecutive outs. The former University of Connecticut standout acknowledged that he wasn't particularly nervous for his first game at a new level.
"I would say it was more excitement than anything," Barnes said. "It's always great to move up a level; that's what we all want to do if we're going to reach the Majors. Everyone wants to move up. I'm happy that it came so soon. But at the end of the day, it's still the game of baseball."
Barnes struck out five of six batters, including four straight, over the fourth and fifth innings. He gave up a double to Juan Silverio and an RBI single to Semien in the sixth but fanned the final two batters he faced.
The 21-year-old right-hander never struck out more than nine batters in five South Atlantic League starts. But he leads the Minors with 54 punchouts in 32 2/3 innings and is second across all levels with a 0.55 ERA. As impressive as his strikeout total may be, the 2011 Big East Conference Pitcher of the Year takes more pride in the latter statistic.
"[Strikeouts] are nice to have. But for me, they don't matter all that much," Barnes explained. "As long as I'm putting up zeros, that's all I care about. Of course, it's good to know that I can get a strikeout if I need one in a certain situation. But I'd rather focus on other things."
Barnes' next start could come Thursday at home against Potomac or Friday at Myrtle Beach, depending on how Salem decides to handle a scheduled off day early in the week.
"I hadn't talked to any of the guys, really, about any of the differences [between the South Atlantic and Carolina leagues], but just from pitching today, you can already see these hitters are more advanced," Barnes said. "They'll make you work for your pitches, so it's something I'll have to work on."
Red Sox No. 19 prospect Jackie Bradley walked three times and scored twice out of the leadoff spot. His .488 on-base percentage is tops in the Minors.
Winston-Salem starter Ryan Buch (2-2) allowed four earned runs on four hits and three walks over three innings.