Matt Barnes hasn't always been a quick beginner, but that makes the scorching start to his professional career all the more impressive.
The Red Sox's No. 13 prospect allowed one hit over five shutout innings Friday in Class A Greenville's 3-2, 10-inning loss to West Virginia.
Barnes, who struck out seven without walking a batter, has pitched 10 scoreless innings to start the year after limiting Lakewood to two hits in his pro debut on Sunday.
Against West Virginia, the 2011 first-round pick gave up only a first-inning double to Jodaneli Carvajal. He fanned three in the opening frame, then allowed just one baserunner over the final four innings as Kirk Singer reached on one of Greenville's four errors.
"I established my fastball early, both early in the game and early in the count," Barnes said. "I was working that pretty well and had some good command with it. The curveball was a good enough out-pitch that I used it to complement the fastball, too. So a lot was working tonight."
Barnes is one of four South Atlantic League pitchers who boast 0.00 ERAs while throwing at least 10 innings. He ranks second in the 14-team circuit with 16 strikeouts, two behind Marlins No. 3 prospect Jose Fernandez, while his 0.50 WHIP is third.
As a junior at the University of Connecticut, the 6-foot-4 right-hander surrendered three earned runs over six innings in his first two appearances of the 2010 season. In his first two starts as a senior, he gave up six earned runs over 13 innings.
While ERAs of 4.50 and 4.15 are not shabby, Barnes ended those seasons with marks of 3.92 and 1.93, respectively. He credited his strong start for the Drive to an offseason program he used to prepare for his first Spring Training.
"It's all about how you prepare in the offseason," he explained "I put in a lot of good offseason work this winter. What's happening now, I think, is just a testament to how hard I worked in trying to get ready for my first year here. Once the games started, all I could do was go out and compete. And that's worked out well so far."
The 21-year-old Connecticut native also employs a basic in-game strategy.
"I'm not trying to be too fancy," Barnes said. "I just try to work the halves of the plate instead of the thirds and pound the strike zone as early as possible. [Drive catcher Blake Swihart] did a good job helping me work those halves tonight. It's always a complementary effort between the pitcher and catcher."
Barnes' chances for a second win disappeared when Willy Garcia hit a two-run homer off reliever Jason Garcia in the eighth inning. Alen Hanson raced home with the winning run on the 10th on a wild pitch by Garcia.
Red Sox No. 9 prospect Garin Cecchini broke out of a season-opening 3-for-31 slump with three hits for Greenville.
Robert Kilcrease, Rinku Singh and Emmanuel De Leon (1-1) combined for nine strikeouts over six scoreless innings out of the Power bullpen.