Last season the right-hander split time between the bullpen and starting with the Storm. Although the overall numbers weren't as strong he still struck out 89 batters in 88.1 innings against 33 walks but also had a 5.01 ERA in the hitter-friendly Cal League.
This year the Padres have moved him back to the pen in San Antonio where he has been one of the better relief pitchers in the organization. Through Monday night the Missions' closer had 21 strikeouts against 4 walks in 17 innings. In ten of his thirteen games he has not allowed an earned run.
At six-foot-two and a powerful 225 lbs. Barbato relies upon a big four-seam fastball that he can hump up to the mid-90s along with a two-seamer, change-up and curve. When he's coming out of the pen, as opposed to starting, it's going to be a lot of heat.
By the time a player arrives at AA, we've interviewed and written about them a few times, so we tried to change it up a little bit this time.
Last time we spoke the Padres were moving you from the bullpen to starting and the time before from starting to the bullpen. When I asked you which you liked more, both times you gave me the same answer that you pretty much just enjoy pitching.
So is it safe to assume that you don't really give a damn where you are as long as they let you on the mound on a semi-regular basis?
Johnny Barbato: [laughs] Yeah, that would be a safe assumption. It's all about pitching and my goal has always been to just go out there and get it done.
Does your velocity pick up when you come out of the pen?
Johnny Barbato: Yeah, a little because you are not out there for as long. You are not trying to save anything.
Does it change what you throw? If you are coming in late in the game is it going to be about ninety percent fastballs?
Johnny Barbato: Pretty much. I try to get ahead on the fastball and challenge batters. I get in trouble when I try to get to pretty. Then I start walking guys and getting in trouble.
When you are coming out of the pen you want to pound the zone with strikes and get some outs.
Is their a difference between closing and coming in for middle relief? What is harder getting the last three outs of a game or coming in with a runner on first and third, one out and you are up by one?
Or is it just I'm going to get the guy out that is in front of me?
Johnny Barbato: You think about both of those situations when the game is on the line. But the guys you see in the big leagues always emphasize getting the hitter out and making your pitch.
If you can execute it will work in your favor.
You have had so many different pitching coaches throughout your career both as a pro and as an amateur. How do you know what to emphasize?
Johnny Barbato: I have definitely had some good pitching coaches since I've been with the Padres. Outside of pro ball my only coach has really been my father.
Here there are a lot of guys with big league experience - Willie Blair who I had in Fort Wayne and is now the big league coach with the Padres, JJ [Jimmie Johnson, the pitching coach with the Missions] has been great and when Trevor Hoffman comes around they really help you out a lot.
What has it been like working with Trevor?
Johnny Barbato: It's pretty neat having him around. He's out here running polls with us and he really has a lot of insight that can help you with the game.
Most of the people that read this are like me and stopped playing sports at the high school level. Players like you that are at the AA level are good enough to be in the major leagues right now. What does a coach up here really work with you on?
Johnny Barbato: Mechanically really nothing, it's much more mental. What do you do to prepare for a game? How do you recover?
If you are at this level your mechanics should be there; the difference between us and the guys in the big leagues is the mental part of the game. It's all about learning how to become more consistent.
I always ask you what your goals are or what you are trying to improve upon, but lets skip that and try something different.
Johnny Barbato: [laughs] I agree, let's do it.
How long is the beard going to stay?
Johnny Barbato: It's going to stay.
Even in the Texas heat?
Johnny Barbato: Its' going to stay. I'm from Florida and I'm used to this weather. My home is ten miles from the Everglades.
It's not going to get too sweaty and nasty in the heat?
Johnny Barbato: No.
How about your teammates? Are they going to have to deal with that throughout the whole year?
Johnny Barbato: Yeah, it will grow on them. Maybe right now they aren't so crazy about it, but they are going to get used to it by the end of the season.