A little more than a month into his pitching career, Jeremy Barfield has the enthusiasm of a kid in a candy store when describing his new role. The outfielder-turned-Stockton Ports' reliever has fit right in with the crew in the bullpen. He relishes coming into games with the outcome on the line.
"Absolutely, because I like pressure situations," Barfield said. "The intensity level is high. I can get the best of a batter based on his emotions at the plate.
Barfield during his hitting days.
"Especially in the bullpen, we are a tight-knit unit. While still staying locked into the game, we have some fun out there. We're a pretty close group. In the bullpen, it's really just one unit. I've never really had that before so it is fun to be a part of it."
Barfield made the switch from outfielder to pitcher halfway through last season and made his regular season debut on the mound this year. Thus far, the results have been encouraging. Although Barfield's ERA is 5.19, there has been a lot to like about his first five weeks on the mound. He has 25 strike-outs in 17.1 innings and opposing batters are hitting just .206 against him. Barfield has struggled at times with his command, walking 14 and allowing four homeruns.
Barfield says that his control issues are a product of still learning to channel his energy better on the mound.
"I feel pretty good. Mainly, I've just had to calm myself down on the mound," Barfield said. "I tend to get too pumped up. That adrenaline gets flowing and I need to be able to control and harness it. That's been the main thing. When I get too pumped up, the control goes and I need to be able to control my emotions on the mound.
"When you are hitting you want to be relaxed. When I am pitching, I want to have that intensity. I need to translate that intensity into focus. Hitting, I just want to be relaxed and calm. When you are pitching, you can't really be calm because you want to execute your pitches. You need to have that balance of intensity and relaxation."
Barfield's fastball sits mostly in the low-90s, and he hides the ball well, making it appear even faster to hitters. He points to his heater as his best offering.
"The fastball is the best pitch in baseball," Barfield said.
He has also been throwing a slider mostly to lefties and a split-finger mostly to right-handers. Learning to mix up that pitch pattern is another aspect of Barfield's current education on the mound."The process of learning what to throw to different guys [is coming along]," Barfield said.
Two aspects of his new role that haven't taken much adjustment are his vantage point during the game in the bullpen and his routine when his name is called to get ready to pitch.
"I need a pair of binoculars to really be focused on the game," Barfield said about his time out in the ‘pen."Most of the time I'm freezing out there. It's hard to stay locked into the game. It's different [than being in the dugout], although it isn't that much different than being in the outfield. So it's not too bad."
Getting loose when his name is called hasn't been difficult at all."You generally get a five minute warning to get loose and then you are in," Barfield said. "The switch turns on pretty quickly.
"It's a good thing I don't have that many miles on my arm. It doesn't take me long to get loose. I haven't gone into a game yet where I didn't already feel warm. One time I threw six [warm-up] pitches in the bullpen and it was the best outing I had. I'm feeling pretty good when I come into a game."