At one point in his pitching career, Cubs prospect Sean Barry threw his slider harder than his fastball.
How does that happen?
"The injury was a freak thing to begin with," the 23-year-old said.
He was working at a physical therapy office and, in the process of testing equipment, tore the labrum in his pitching arm. The silver lining at the time was that the accident occurred after his senior high school season, and it ended up not requiring surgery to repair.
Barry's rehab treatment was a combination of physical therapy and platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections. When he was given the all-clear to pitch again, his fastball began to cut without any explanation.
His fastball dipped from a straight 90 mph to about 82 with cut, and his slider sat around 84 mph. The slider had a higher velocity than his four-seamer, and that was an issue entering his freshman year of college.
"I had no idea what the deal was," Barry said. "The next three years, I was trying to get rid of the cut and throw hard like I did in high school. It wasn't really working."
Rather than keep fighting it, Barry embraced the cutter his senior year at the University of San Diego. He met with pitching coaches, built his arm back up and his fastball eventually no longer resembled a breaking pitch.
"I was trying to change arm slots to get rid of it, and that didn't do anything," he said. "So the coaches told me to run with it, and I just accepted the cut and changed how I thought about it."
Now, his cutter sits around 87-89 mph, so the velocity is almost back to where it was when his heater was straight. With the added movement, things have worked out pretty well for Barry.
Video: Sean Barry strikes out the side, fans his 6th batter
He was a 21st-round pick by the Cubs in the 2017 Draft and has appeared in 19 games this season for Class A Short Season Eugene with a 1.52 ERA. With 36 strikeouts and a .190 batting average against over 29 2/3 innings, he made the Northwest League All-Star team and is tied for sixth in appearances.
One of the three home runs he's allowed this year came against quite an accomplished hitter. Barry threw one pitch to Mariners infielder Robinson Cano, who was in Everett on a rehab assignment following his 80-game suspension for PED use, and the eight-time All-Star clubbed it out of the yard for a grand slam.
"That pitch was so high, any other hitter would have taken it," Barry said. "But he was there for a reason, and he was looking for a pitch up. It sucked, and I'd like another shot at him."
Barry has worked hard with his pitching coaches, specifically Cubs rehab pitching coordinator Ron Villone, to fine-tune his mechanics and build off what he learned his final year in college. Repeating his delivery with his arm out front, then working off other mechanical cues, has been the focus for Barry -- and it has yielded results.
"I have a funky arm motion, anyway, so getting in those same positions every time and working on some core stuff … that has been big," he said.
Hops, Canadians jump out to second-half leads: Hillsboro, buoyed by a recent 9-2 road trip, has continued its South Division-leading ways with a 17-8 record going into play Tuesday. They won the first-half division title, so they are already locked into the postseason. Vancouver, meanwhile, is 15-10 to lead the North in the second half. If the Canadians hold on, they'll join Everett as the North Division postseason teams.
Winckowski leads the ERA race: Vancouver's Josh Winckowski has been pretty stingy this season. His 2.29 ERA (15 earned runs in 59 innings) is tops in the league and the only mark under 3.00. His teammate Randy Pondler's ERA is 3.04, and Tri-City's Angel Acevedo sits at 3.08. Spokane's Seth Nordlin leads the league with 66 strikeouts, and Vancouver's Jose Espada is second with 60 punchouts.
Billy Gates is a contributor to MiLB.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.