Milwaukee Brewers' prominent launcher Jacob Barnes applauds San Diego's last fly Padres Christian Villanueva to close the ninth inning of a baseball game in San Diego on Saturday 31 March 2018. The Brewers have won 7-3. (AP Photo / Alex Gallardo) ORG XMIT: CAAG121 (Photo11: Associated Press)
PHOENIX – Jacob Barnes had his first close look last season about how the bulls are now managed in terms of keeping their new arms close at hand, and it was a bit jarring.
After conceding three shots and a run in a wild 11-10 victory in Colorado on May 11th, the legendary Milwaukee Brewers was opted for the AAA Colorado Springs class the next day to allow Alec Asher to be selected by that club. After launching two innings on May 12th, Asher was sent back but Barnes did not return for 16 days.
"It's been difficult," said Barnes, who had a 2.84 ERA in 17 appearances when he was sent off. "One of the negatives of having options (minor league) is that they are used for that .You can finish up and down a lot.It's not funny.
"The first time I was sent, I was a little shocked."
Barnes went back and forth to the AAA Colorado Springs class three times before the season was over. He still squeezed into 49 appearances with the Brewers, going 0-1 with an ERA 3.33, with 47 strikeouts in 48⅔ innings. It was not in their postseason roster.
Rescue bodies are managed more fluidly than they were a few years ago, largely because those weapons are used more in the "bullpening" era. The launchers with options that are not part of the high-lever sub-set are vulnerable to becoming human yo-yos while the teams try to keep the ready-made relievers fresh. For example, Jorge Lopez has been up and down six times with the Brewers last year, before being sent to Kansas City on July 27 in the Mike Moustakas trade.
Barnes, 28, still has a minor league chance, putting him in the same position he is preparing for the 2019 season. It was an opening experience for a pitcher who made 73 appearances in relief for the Brewers in 2017.
"They often use (options)," said Barnes. "It does not always matter if you're putting up good numbers – a lot of times, they just need a fresh arm – if you have an option, you'll be the person sent.
"You want to be in the most important leagues and you know you can succeed, it's something you have to get used to and adapt to, and keep the mentality of not worrying about things you can not control." It's not easy. "
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Before season 18 was over, the brewers used 23 different launchers outside the bullpen, some of which also started. The bricolage / beater matches are more accentuated than ever, sometimes leading to shuffling from series to series.
The manager Craig Counsell said that the launchers with options at the low end of the hierarchy are informed that they could be in positions like Barnes, Lopez and Adrian Houser, among others, last year.
"I think it's important to get out in front of it," Counsell said. "Players know they have options, and they know it's a possibility – try to get out of that category (from performance) If you perform at a level where we do not want to take it into consideration, that's part of it.
"We have the conversation, they know it's happening, we know it's happening, we recognize, every player wants to be in the most important championships all season, and if a player gets knocked out he's disappointed and we'll see that.
"As we face it, there will be players in that group every year – to do it effectively, we think it's a big part of being able to win games, manage workloads, keep kids cool and healthy."
For now, Barnes is focusing on making the brewers' bullpen out of spring training, a major task considering the number of good weapons in the field looking for work. Whether opening the season or not in the majors, he understands that it could be another year of frequent flyer miles accumulation, this time from the new AAA-class affiliate in San Antonio.
"Try not to worry," he said. "You know there's always the possibility that it happens, it's the reality of that, but all you can control is what you do, we have a very talented bullpen, it's fun to be a part of that.
"It can be frustrating when it happens, last year was really the first time it happened to me, you know how to deal with it, it's part of this concert, how our team is run in. The bullpen is our strength."