Barbato Clicking At The End

Overall it was a very good year for reliever Johnny Barbato in his first full season for the Yankees, especially on the heels of missing the second half of the 2014 season as part of the Padres' organization. He not only was able to pitch the entire season but his game came together for him in the second half and he was really clicking at the end in Triple-A Scranton.

His final combined numbers this season were quite good, posting a 6-2 record with five saves and a 2.67 ERA and 70 strikeouts in 67.1 innings between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton.

"I thought I had a good year," Barbato said. "It had its ups and downs but I finished strong and that was the main goal after a rough June and parts of July. I felt like it was a good year though."

He mentioned the rough June and it was really the only blemish in an otherwise strong 2015 campaign. He allowed nearly as many earned runs [eight] in his seven appearances that month as he did in his first 14 Double-A appearances [he allowed nine earned runs in the first two months].

Part of his struggles could be blamed on pitching deeper into the season this year after being shut down in June a year ago. Perhaps hitting that proverbial wall, Barbato just thinks it was a combination of not making the right pitches at the right time and not having luck on his side either.

"I think at the time all of my pitches really weren't working for me," he said. "I was just trying to figure out how to get them all together working again. Luck plays into sometimes too and luck just wasn't going my way [during that time] in some games, giving up some bloopers here and there, and not being able to have a clean inning. Other than that it was more just losing something here and there and trying to find it again."

What he needed to find again was control over his curveball. It seemed during that rough patch mid-season that he wasn't able to find his desired location with what many consider to be his strongest pitch.

"Yeah I think that was my problem in June," he admitted. "The curveball is a hard pitch to throw. You can ask anyone, it's there one week and then it's freaky when you lose it and you have to find it all over again. It's a hard pitch to stay consistent with and I feel like the last couple months of the season I figured it out, and everything kind of clicked from there."

Click it did. He struck out eleven batters and allowed just four hits [and one earned run] over his final five Trenton appearances before going up to Triple-A Scranton and allowing just one earned run [a 0.36 ERA] in his 14 appearances there, limiting opposing batters to a .159 average and striking out 26 batters in 25 innings.

"I felt like I could throw a pitch whenever I needed to," he said of his time in Scranton. "My curveball was really good and I started throwing my changeup more, and just working all three of my pitches and keep hitters off-balance. I could get the swing and miss when I needed it or get the ground ball. I just felt like all three pitches were working and I could throw them in any count. I think that really helped out."

The fact is it all worked for him in Triple-A. For a guy who missed as much time as he did a year ago, he reportedly not only kept up his fastball velocity the entire season in 2015 but saw a slight bump in his average velocity upon his Tripe-A promotion too.

Sitting mostly 93-94 mph in Trenton, he bumped up his average to a reported 95.8 mph in Scranton.

"I was definitely happy about it after the year I had last year. Being able to throw even two or three innings at a time and having my fastball in the mid-90s was definitely encouraging.

"It gives me a good mindset coming into next year to show the Yankees I'm healthy again and can pitch a full year. It was definitely encouraging to see my fastball was still there and that I could pitch an entire season."

What was also encouraging was the continued development of a complete pitcher. Once primarily a fastball-curveball hurler, he not only began implementing more changeups into his repertoire but he learned to lean on that pitch even more as he inched his way closer to the big leagues, and he's excited about how far his changeup has come.

"I definitely am. In the beginning of the year it was definitely up and down, and in the middle of the season I changed my grip back to the way I threw it high school and it clicked for me. It ended up being a great pitch. I could throw it behind in the count and get rollovers or swings and misses. It was definitely a great pitch to have confidence in and be able to throw it again.

"When you go from Double-A to Triple-A those guys when you get behind in the count you can't really throw them anything over the plate fastball-wise. So it was a good pitch to throw 2-0 or 2-1 and get you a ground ball or a pop up. I think that definitely helped me a lot when I moved up to Scranton."

As the numbers surely show, he was clicking on all cylinders by season's end and it put a bow on what turned out to be a great season for the 23-year old, especially from a health standpoint.

"I think I still have to get my fastball location a little bit better but other than that I think all of my stuff was really good the last month and half of the season.

"I feel great. The elbow's great, the shoulder's great. Everything feels great right now. I could probably keep pitching but I'm enjoying the time off too to be honest with you. I feel great, honestly.

"I exceeded what I thought I was going to be able to do. Being hurt half of last year you get a little skeptical about how the year is going to go and not pitching in nine months [and still being able to] go back to back days. I think I exceeded what I thought I could do and I'm definitely happy with how the year went," he concluded.

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