Barbato Excited

The New York Yankees acquired power relief pitching prospect Johnny Barbato from the San Diego Padres on Monday in exchange for big league reliever Shawn Kelley. Barbato says he was a little bit shocked with the timing of the deal since he spent a good portion of the 2014 season hurt but he says he's excited to get to Spring Training camp and show his new organization what he's got.

Whether it was the fans or the media, news of the deal came as a bit of a surprise to everyone. Barbato says you would have to include him in that group too.

"It's crazy. It was a shock. Honestly I was speechless when I got the call from A.J. Preller," Barbato said. "I didn't really know what to think. I was really excited [about] new beginnings and all of that stuff.

"It was kind of shock though after being with them for a while and I personally didn't think with what happened to me last year that anybody would think I would be healthy enough to trade for so I was shocked just about that, but all of that stuff is fine now.

"It was a great shock. I'm really excited about it. It was definitely a good day for everybody."

The former 2010 sixth round pick was in the midst of another terrific season in 2014, posting a 2.90 ERA and notching 16 saves as the closer for the Double-A San Antonio Missions when things took an eventual drastic turn during a minor league game against Corpus Christi at Minute Maid Park in mid-June.

"We were in Houston [at the big league stadium] and I came in the ninth to close it out, threw a curveball, and felt a stretch in my forearm," he recounted. "I threw like three or four more pitches after that and [the manager] came out and told me we had to get out of this inning and I told him I couldn't pitch anymore, and I took myself out because my elbow was bothering me."

It was June 10th and it would be his last official game of the 2014 season.

"A few days later I went and got an MRI and they said there was a grade two tear but it was more frayed because it was so strained, just really frayed," he revealed. "I took six weeks off, started a throwing program [after that] for another six weeks, went to Instructs and threw a couple of live BP's, and then threw an inning and everything felt fine."

He pitched in just one inning in one Instructional League game in early October. It was his first time in a game setting since his June 10th outing against Corpus Christi but that one inning let him know that everything was back to normal for him.

"It felt good. I thought it felt great. Everybody was telling me to let it loose and I of course was a little hesitant at first but once I started to man up and start throwing everything was fine. I didn't feel anything. Everything was fine. My velocity was fine and told me I was good to go, so they pretty much sent me home."

His velocity was once again sitting in the upper-90s. Armed with a fastball that averages 95-97 mph and tops out at 99 mph, a true 12 to 6 curveball that ranges from 75-80 mph, and a changeup he can throw for strikes, he has a starter's repertoire but a closer's mentality.

"My fastball this year was probably the best it's ever been," he said proudly. "If I threw a pitch at 95 mph this year everybody would look at me and say 'what's wrong'. I got up to 99 mph this past year a couple of times.

"I feel comfortable with all of my pitches. I feel like I can throw any pitch whenever. I do think I need to be a little more consistent keeping the ball down but that's about it pretty much.

"I feel more comfortable as a reliever. I think I could do both [starting or relieving] but personally I feel a lot more comfortable as a reliever. I just like the mentality of going out there and getting three outs and getting it done, and giving it all you've got. I like that mentality more than trying to get to the fifth and sixth inning. For me relieving is just better."

Traded for a big league reliever like Shawn Kelley has him feeling pretty good about where his game is right now. And health-wise, while things didn't go quite as planned for him this past season, he says he is good to go and he is excited about proving himself with his new organization in 2015.

"I've been playing catch the last couple of weeks and everything has been feeling great, back to normal. I've been throwing from 120 feet and putting a little extra on it to test it out and everything seems normal. Everything's fine, nothing at all, no pain. I know I'll be healthy for sure for Spring Training.

"I'm pumped, I'm super excited for it. All anybody knows is the Yankees. Everybody knows about the Yankees. Just going in and having the possibility of meeting all of these guys that I've been watching for as long as I can remember, just having the chance to meet them and even play beside them is very exciting to think about. I can't wait to get down there and start pitching," he concluded.

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