Barraclough not worried where he slots into Nationals pen

Chris Lingebach
February 14, 2019 - 6:53 pm
Barraclough not worried where he slots into Nationals pen

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Barraclough has pitched out of the seventh and eighth innings for most of his career.

But he pitched mostly out of the eighth and ninth innings for the 63-win Marlins last season. With Doolittle already the Nationals closer, and veteran closer Trevor Rosenthal added along with Barraclough in free agency, Barraclough won't see the ninth often. He may not even see the eighth much, and that's okay by him.

"I mean, any reliever I think wants to pitch the ninth inning," Barraclough told 106.7 The Fan's Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier. "They want the ball at the end of the game. But like you guys just said, Doolittle's been doing it for a long time. He's an All-Star. And this isn't a role late in the games, even if it's not the ninth inning, that I'm not used to.

"It's kind of the role that I pitched in in 2016 and '17, and hopefully it's kind of that same role, setting it up for, whether it be Rosenthal and Doolittle, or me and Rosenthal flip-flopping back and forth, or me even coming in earlier in the games. I mean, three outs are three outs, and I think as long as I'm coming in and getting them, that's all that matters."

The Milwaukee Brewers may have opened Pandora's box bringing 'bullpenning' into the playoffs in 2018. When a club is willing to trot its starter out for only two innings -- effective innings, to be sure -- and almost immediately go to the pen, in the NLCS, there's not much left to the imagination of what a club wouldn't try. 

In Game 5 of the NLCS, the series tied 2-2, Wade Miley walked his first batter. Craig Counsell pulled him for Brandon Woodruff. A radical re-imagination of how we view high-leverage innings, if nothing else.

How much has Barraclough's perception of bullpen roles evolved?

"I think it's funny that you mention the Brewers, because I was kind of thinking about (Josh) Hader and (Jeremy) Jeffress when you said that," Barraclough replied. "You saw those guys come in and be really effective, whether it was in the sixth inning or the eighth inning, coming in and getting guys out and getting out of jams.

"Whether it be after the starter or whether it be after another reliever, that's not something that's up to me, I've just got to be ready to take the ball when I get it when Davey calls for me. But it's like you said, sometimes those most important outs are in the fifth inning, coming in and getting out of a jam, instead of in the ninth."

"But obviously there's a reason that those closers get paid big money," he added. "It's the hardest job to get those last three outs and that extra little added pressure on you, but like you said, those three outs in the fifth are just as important."

Paulsen remarked that Barraclough's numbers dipped last season, specifically that his strikeout rate – 9.7 strikeouts-per-nine innings – dipped below 10 for the first time in his career, and his walk rate, with a 1.356 WHIP, has been down the past two seasons.

"I'm curious if you felt like your performance waned at all," Paulsen said. "Or if the numbers just didn't bear out."

"I think that walk rate, like you mentioned, is something that I've always been trying to clean up," Barraclough said. "Throughout my whole career, I kind of pitch myself into trouble. I think I've always had a good batting average against and strikeout rate and stuff like that, and then when I get in trouble, it's because I'm putting guys on and getting myself in tough situations and then forcing myself to get out of it.

"And so that's something that I'm always constantly working on and trying to get better at. I feel like I made some strides this offseason, and now I'm excited to get into camp and throw some bullpens and work on it during spring, just attacking guys and getting after it."

Although they're the same age (Barraclough is actually six days older), the 28-year-old Barraclough was really looking forward to meeting Rosenthal, the dominant reliever he looked up to coming up in the Cardinals organization.

"I watched him pitch for a couple years while I was in the minors and he was in the majors," he said. "And he was always one of those guys that, as a minor-leaguer, you're looking up and that's the dude at the back of the bullpen. Got to meet him today, play catch with him, so that was cool."

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