The last few days have been a bit of a struggle for the Washington Nationals, as they lost two games to the Atlanta Braves and then one to the Minnesota Twins. They are now 9 games behind the first-place Braves in the NL East
A bright spot over an otherwise dreary start to the last month of baseball has been Aaron Barret’s call-up and first MLB appearance since 2015.
In 2014 and 2015, Barrett appeared in 90 games, posting a 3.63 ERA and 6-3 record out of the bullpen. He was a valued member of the bullpen and a fan favorite, too.
The baseball gods have not been kind to Barrett since then. One Tommy John operation is bad enough for any pitcher, but in the past four years, Barrett has had three operations, each more frustrating than the next. He underwent Tommy John on his right elbow and had bone spurs removed in September 2015. He then underwent surgery to remove bone chips and spurs from his left ankle in December 2015 — an injury he attributes to warming up for over a dozen games he didn’t pitch in.
It only gets worse from there. In July 2016, Barrett was throwing at the Nats spring training facility in Florida, when all of a sudden a noise that some described as a gunshot came from the mound. With that one fateful pitch, Barrett had fractured his elbow, an injury that seemed almost impossible. He once again went under the knife, this time to put his arm back together with plates and screws. That put him back to square one in his recovery, and Barrett only began pitching again in 2018 when he appeared in 20 games for the short-season Auburn Doubledays. In 2019 he made 50 appearances over 52 innings for the AA Harrisburg Senators.
Barrett receives all the credit in the world for persevering through all of this. There were plenty of times where he could have walked away and never pitched again, but he put in the work and held out hope that it would all work out. And it did.
As of Sept. 12, Barrett has only appeared in two games this season — on Sept. 7 when he pitched a scoreless inning against the Atlanta Braves. In that inning, Barret walked one batter, induced a fly ball into foul territory for the first out, struck out Ronald Acuña Jr. on three pitches, and then induced another fly ball to centerfield to end the inning.
His family was in attendance, and it was an emotional moment for all involved. The cameras caught Barrett tearing up in the dugout as manager Davey Martinez congratulated him after the inning.
That wasn’t the first time the big man teared up recently. He had been rehabbing with AA Harrisburg, and manager Matthew LeCroy told Barrett about his call up in front of the entire team. There were tears, hugs, and lots of excitement in the middle of the field that day.
Barrett next appeared on Sept. 12, when the Nats were up 10–3 against the Minnesota Twins. He struck out the first batter, but issued a walk to the next batter and then gave up a two-run home run. The following batter reached base on a ball past Trea Turner, and then Barrett issued his second walk of the inning. After that, Barrett gave up a single past Brian Dozier and another run scored. Martinez took him out of the game in favor of Fernando Rodney.
Barrett is still a bit of a wildcard coming out of the bullpen, and as the playoff race gets tighter, the Nats can’t afford to have any more excitement from their relievers. However, if Barrett can prove his consistency in side sessions and warm-ups, he could be a crucial part of the relief corps down the stretch.
It’s good to see you again, Bear. We missed you.