Bouncing Back

Aaron Barrett was all set to be a weekend starter last season for Ole Miss. As a matter of fact, he started the first game at the South Alabama tournament in Mobile.

The Rebels won 6-5 against Liberty University that opening Friday. The team wasn't overly impressive and neither was Barrett, who didn't figure in the decision. He allowed four runs on six hits, struck out seven and only walked one. His five innings that day would be his longest outing of the entire 2009 campaign.

But it was the first game and baseball is a long season. There's plenty of time to improve. But Barrett mostly struggled. He started the very next weekend against TCU in a weather-shortened series. He suffered the loss, his only decision of the season, as he worked 4.2 innings and allowed six runs - five earned - on 10 hits with a walk and five strikeouts.

In the third game at Vanderbilt during the first SEC series of the spring, Barrett got roughed up early and was pulled in the second inning, the only game the Rebs lost all weekend.

The junior right-hander from Wabash Valley Community College by way of Evansville, Ind., never was able to fulfill his potential and the hopes the coaches had for him.

Barrett, who finished the season 0-1 with only 14 appearances and four starts, pitched just 30 total innings in a Super Regional season for the Rebels and had an 8.70 ERA. Those four starts all came the first four weekends, and after that, Barrett headed to the bullpen to become a reliever.

It was an unsettling season for the 6-foot-2, 210-pounder, one that he looks back on and hopes to have moved past.

"Last year, I wouldn't say it was physical, because my stuff was there," said Barrett, reflecting on those tough times. "I think last year, to sum it up, was really a learning experience. I got benched for a little while, and once I started figuring it out, I said hey you've gotta start learning how to pitch rather than throw."

Barrett understood his situation. And while he worked through it, that breakout game or series of games never materialized.

He pressed on and basically became a dugout cheerleader when not in the bullpen. He was credited with having a terrific attitude and positive demeanor. It was a role he willingly accepted but obviously not without some anguish.

"Confidence-wise I was obviously down," he said. "One of the problems I have is when I don't have success, I get frustrated at myself. I was trying to do too much."

This past fall he felt better about things. Heading into this season, Barrett truly believes he will be ready to help out this team – on the mound and not just in the dugout and clubhouse.

"Baseball is a game of failure, and you're not going to be successful every time you go out there," Barrett said. "Over the summer I worked a lot on my changeup and locating. I did well in the Coastal Plain League.

"I had a really good fall," he continued. "Coach (Carl) Lafferty, Coach (Mike) Bianco and I watched a lot of film on my mechanics and made some minor adjustments. The main thing that's going to be different is I'm just going to try to stay relaxed and loose and let the ball fly out of my hand."

Barrett throws his fastball 90-93, his slider 82-84, and his changeup 78-81. He said he's spent a lot of time improving his entire arsenal.

"I mostly had fastball and slider," he said of his arrival at Ole Miss. "I had a changeup but it was a developing pitch. I went from a two-seam changeup to a four-seam changeup and that's helped my location a lot. I would definitely say my slider is my best pitch. I can throw it for a strike when I want to, and it's my out pitch when I need a big strikeout. Getting ahead with the fastball and being able to locate it in and out is key."

The Rebels' ace this season is Friday starter Drew Pomeranz. With closer Jake Morgan out of action for the year due to Tommy John surgery in the fall, very little is certain concerning the pitching staff and their roles.

Barrett understands he likely must play a part if the Rebels are to continue their winning ways.

"I know part of us being successful this year is me being able to throw a lot of innings," he said. "I know they want me in the starting rotation."

And if things happen to get a little rocky, Barrett believes he will still fine over the long haul.

"I know that the only thing I can control is the next pitch," said Barrett. "It was hard to handle not being successful last year. That's why I think ultimately it will make me that much better."

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