Charlie Barnes talked with pitchers who were in his shoes before this season and realized it was going to be difficult to pitch deep into Appalachian League games after throwing a full college slate.
"They said, 'Yeah man, it [stinks] because you never really get to go five," the Twins' 2017 fourth-round pick said. "If anything, you never get a win but you can get a loss if you happen to give up a run or things don't go your way."
Barnes had almost everything bounce his way, as he and Juan Gamez and Jovani Moran combined on a one-hitter to lead Rookie-level Elizabethton to a 5-0 win over Johnson City at Joe O'Brien Field. Pitching in his third game, the 21-year-old allowed a second-inning single to Cameron Knight, walked one and struck out a career-best seven through five innings for his first win as a pro.
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"It's something I've dreamed of since I was a kid, to play professionally," Barnes said. "To finally get a win, that was awesome. But at the end of the day, I've got to keep winning. Hopefully, it's just the first of many."
The left-hander fanned 113 and compiled a 3.20 ERA over 101 1/3 innings during his junior season at Clemson, earning the Stowe Award as the team's most valuable pitcher. After the Twins selected him 106th overall, Barnes made the short trip from South Carolina to Tennessee.
"It's been a crazy few weeks," he said. "The Draft was exciting and I was excited about all that happened. But these last few weeks I've put that behind me and started to try and work and get better and hopefully make the next step. Right now, I'm just taking it day by day and it's been a really good time for me."
After throwing his final pitches for the Tigers, Barnes went 24 days before making his professional debut on June 27, when he surrendered two runs in 2 1/3 innings and took the loss against Pulaski. Since then, the Sumter, South Carolina, native worked with Twins pitching coach Luis Ramirez on getting back in a groove.
"I wouldn't say anything specific, just trying to tune things up, just get me going and get my mechanics back to where they were," Barnes said.
He plunked Wood Myers with the second pitch of the game, but retired the next four batters. After Jonathan Rivera walked and Knight singled with two outs in the second, Barnes fanned J.D. Murders to end the threat.
"Anytime you have runners in scoring position and you get out of the jam, that's huge." he said. "I think our team came out after that and scored a few runs. That's huge for an offense to know that your guy is going to get out of it. Obviously, it was huge for me that I could keep throwing."
Using his entire repertoire, the 6-foot-2, 160-pound hurler pitched around two errors to put up three more scoreless innings. Barnes threw 45 of 65 pitches for strikes and recorded six outs with three or fewer pitches. He found the strategy to keep the ball low to be simple but effective.
"I think the biggest thing for me tonight was [that] I was throwing all four pitches for strikes and I was ahead in the count," Barnes said. "In my last two starts, I was kind of falling behind hitters all night. So, tonight I really tried to go out there and attack the zone with all four pitches."
Barnes, who rarely called his own game in college, said he's still adjusting to having more freedom on the hill, but hopes he can deliver more outings like Friday's.
"My goal is to get a little better each time, learn one or two new things each game," he said. "At the end of the day, go out there and compete as hard as you can. It'll be measured by wins and losses and ERA, but I'll be happy with myself if I know I gave everything I had to get better each night."
Gamez took over in the sixth and tossed two hitless frames with one walk. Moran walked Myers to start the eighth, but fanned the final six hitters.
"Our bullpen has done a great job," Barnes said. "Gamez and Moran came in tonight and they were really looking good. They did a great job behind me. They pounded the zone and they worked quick. They do everything you ask out of a reliever."
After scoring three runs on one hit in the second, the Twins padded their lead on a two-run single by Jose Miranda in the third.
"When you're out there in a 0-0 game, one mistake and you could lose," Barnes said. "When you have a two-, three-, four-, five-run lead it's a lot easier to pitch. It's really not going to be one pitch that breaks you. You kind of attack the zone and let the defense do what they do to make plays behind you."