Beware South Atlantic League swingers: Greenville's Matt Barnes, the guy who started his professional career with four scoreless outings, has a new and improved pitch.
Barnes, a 2011 first-round pick and the Red Sox's No. 13 prospect, struck out eight over 5 2/3 strong innings Sunday in the Class A Drive's 7-3 loss to the Lakewood BlueClaws.
"I thought I pitched pretty well, got ahead of batters," Barnes said. "The curveball was on and off throughout the game, but I made some adjustments, threw a lot of changeups."
But not just any changeup. The former University of Connecticut standout said he has switched -- permanently, he believes -- from a four-seam grip to a two-seam circle-change grip. Why?
"It moves a little more," he said of the latter, which he refined in college and the Cape Cod League.
With our without more movement, the 21-year-old right-hander has stayed on a steady course this month. He began his career with 26 2/3 scoreless innings, a streak that ended soon after his exit on Sunday. Barnes yielded a leadoff single in the sixth to Gustavo Gonzalez, who was forced on Carlos Perdomo's one-out grounder, but Perdomo scored once Hunter Cervenka (0-3) came on in relief.
"It's more frustrating in a scenario like that when you're not in control," Barnes said. "But it's still early. [The streak] is impractical for the whole season."
Barnes' final line: one run on three hits.
Barnes' ERA through five pro starts: 0.34.
He said the conclusion of the streak was not a big deal among teammates in the clubhouse or the family members who joined him for dinner Sunday evening. Still, the numbers confound. Barnes has a 42-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio through 26 2/3 innings. He's allowed 12 hits.
Despite rumblings that he could be sent to Class A Advanced Salem by next weekend, Barnes said a promotion is not on his mind.
"I'm just going about my daily business," he added. "I'll leave that to the front office."
BlueClaws starter Ervis Manzanillo yielded three runs on five hits over five innings. Bryan Morgado (2-0) earned the win with three scoreless frames.