Pair of Alumni Eager for Potential Reunion
We have highlighted the exciting journey for former Ducks knuckleballer Mickey Jannis here on the blog recently. The right-hander was flat out dominant for the Ducks (6-2, 1.18 ERA, 16 G, 11 GS) early in 2015 before he was signed by the New York Mets organization. He went on to post a 2-1 record with a 2.98 ERA in eight games (seven starts) at Advanced-A St. Lucie and got some experience at Double-A Binghamton as well. The Nevada native then received an opportunity to pitch in the Arizona Fall League and was 1-1 with a 2.48 ERA in six starts there, further increasing his chances of accelerating up the organizational ladder with the Mets. Now, he might have some familiar company joining him for the ride.
The Mets announced on Monday that Andrew Barbosa was signed to a minor league contract. The left-hander will be joining his third affiliated organization after previously pitching with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Atlanta Braves systems.
“I’ve heard many great things about the Mets organization,” Barbosa said in an interview on Friday, “and I’m just excited and blessed to have an opportunity to chase my dream.”
The 6-foot-8 hurler began the 2015 season in the Diamondbacks organization with the Double-A Mobile BayBears. It was the highest he had ever advanced in his career and an opportunity to continue building upon his success from the previous two seasons. He began the year with three scoreless innings in two relief appearances before earning a start on April 20 at Montgomery. However, in that outing, Barbosa lasted just two-thirds of an inning, yielding five runs on three hits and three walks. He would be released three days later and was in need of another opportunity to continue playing.
“It was pretty tough getting released because it was something that was unexpected,” he recalled. “I made a spot start, and I had no excuses. I just didn’t have a good outcome. Stuff was happening in the big leagues, people were being moved and unfortunately, I was the one to go.”
After a few weeks at home, the Long Island Ducks were able to sign Barbosa on May 19. The team was in need of some help in the rotation due to an injury to Sergio Perez and the struggles of Eric Niesen and Mark Rogers. The lefty came into his new surroundings with a bit of uncertainty, but he was eager to take the new experience and run with it.
“I didn’t know what Independent Baseball was, so when I got a text from [Ducks pitcher and former high school opponent] Carmine [Giardina] I had mixed feelings and immediately talked to my agent,” Barbosa noted. “It ended up being a great choice, and I’m thankful for the opportunity.”
He went on to say, “When I got released, for those couple of weeks I was home, reality hit me. When one door closes, God opens up another one, and I wasn’t going to let that one shut. I started having fun, playing a game…It’s funny how stuff starts to click when you really think about it.”
Barbosa threw three scoreless innings in his Ducks debut on May 19 at York as part of a 4-1 win. He would then go on to allow just one earned run (two total runs) over his first four starts, spanning a total of 22 innings. In that stretch, he gave up 13 hits and seven walks while striking out 26 batters, including back-to-back 10-strikeout performances on May 30 at Somerset and June 5 at Camden. Despite not having a fastball that blows hitters away, he has found a way to use other aspects of his game to his advantage.
“It’s funny I get asked that question all the time: Do you consider yourself a strikeout pitcher?” he said. “Over the years, I’ve learned that we, as pitchers, each have to work with our own strengths. I have found that for me, keeping the hitters off-balance is key. Everything works off my changeup, and though I don’t throw very hard, my inside fastball works to my advantage for opening up the outer half.”
Jannis added, “Being 6-foot-8 gives him a huge advantage. He has great angle on his ball and mixes speeds very effectively. The angle creates a lot of swings and misses and a high strikeout rate.”
The 28-year-old’s only true hiccup with the Flock came on June 10 when he surrendered six runs on eight hits over four innings to Southern Maryland. However, like the Ducks’ offense did so many times in the first half last year, they rallied back with seven runs in the seventh inning to earn a 10-9 win. Speaking of wins, the Ducks did just that in eight of Barbosa’s nine starts. The lone exception came on June 27 at Sugar Land despite him striking out nine batters over six innings of four-run ball.
Regardless of the one loss, his numbers through nine starts were very impressive. He compiled a 4-1 record with a 2.82 ERA and 59 strikeouts over 51 innings of work. The Ducks had two splendid arms in their rotation in Barbosa and Jannis to go along with familiar faces such as John Brownell and Bobby Blevins. Being newcomers to the Flock helped them also create a strong bond that continues today.
“It was great playing with Mickey,” exclaimed Barbosa. “Talk about a great down to earth guy and very humble! He’s not your typical knuckleballer when he can also throw 91 miles per hour. He throws knuckleballs at various speeds but also knows how to pitch with his fastball.”
Jannis shared the sentiment. “I really enjoyed playing alongside Andrew last season. We had a good connection from the beginning, and he fit right in with the team…He is a very funny person and really helped keep things light around the clubhouse.”
Early July proved to be a difficult time for the Ducks’ organization. Not only did they just miss out on a first half title and guaranteed postseason berth, but they also began to be picked apart by Major League clubs. Jannis was the first go, being signed by the Mets on July 1. Just eight days later, Barbosa became the second. The Atlanta Braves, one of New York’s division rivals, saw the success he had in the Atlantic League and gave him the chance to continue his trek to the big leagues. Barbosa would be assigned to Double-A Mississippi and be kept mainly in a starter’s role despite his bump in the road earlier in the year with Mobile. His first outing: Seven innings, three hits, no runs, one walk, 12 strikeouts. It was a statement from him that he was ready to take advantage of this second chance.
“Signing with the Braves was a blessing,” he reminisced. “To get back into affiliated ball and to prove myself again, it was very motivational. I just wanted to carry over what I was doing with the Ducks to the Southern League. Baseball is baseball no matter where you are.”
After a rough outing on July 16, he bounced back in a big way during the week of July 20th. Barbosa made two starts and won them both, defeating Jackson on the road and his former Mobile squad at home. In the two games, he combined to throw 11 scoreless innings, surrendering just six hits and two walks while striking out 10 batters. For his efforts, he was named the Southern League’s Pitcher of the Week. Although he had been successful, Barbosa was moved to the bullpen after those two starts and made only one more start in his final 12 outings. He would finish the season strong though, posting a 5-2 record and a 2.68 ERA along with 51 strikeouts in 43 and two-thirds innings with Mississippi. However, come the offseason, Barbosa chose to elect free agency on November 6.
“The Braves were a great organization, and I enjoyed playing with them,” he assured. “My agent and I just didn’t come to an agreement and decided to see what opportunities came through free agency. I have to say that my agent, Francis Marquez, handled everything and was talking to multiple teams before we made our decision.”
Fortunately, he was able to latch on with the Mets and now joins an organization that clearly has a heavy focus on pitching. Their Major League starting rotation is arguably the best in baseball, with the likes of Matt Harvey, Jacob DeGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz highlighting the group. However, their minor league arms are quite impressive as well. With Jannis and Barbosa now on the fold, it is quite possible the two could end up pitching together next season either at Double-A Binghamton or Triple-A Las Vegas.
Barbosa commented, “He deserves this opportunity, and hopefully I am able to reunite with him and pitch. Nothing like some friendly competition to keep you zoned in!”
As for Jannis, he also is in favor of a reunion. “It would be great to pitch alongside him again next season in the Mets organization. We kept in touch after we were both picked up by organizations last year, and after I sent him a ‘Happy Thanksgiving’ text he told me he signed with the Mets. It was a little bit of an early Christmas present in a way.”
Neither have ever advanced as high as Triple-A before, so that would be a major accomplishment in and of itself. However, they both have their sights set on Citi Field and the hopes of one day achieving their big league dream. Thinking out loud, Barbosa spoke his mind: “The big leagues is always the goal, and it would be amazing to throw in Citi Field. I can’t even imagine that environment.”
Posted on December 18, 2015, in Feature Articles and tagged 2015, Andrew Barbosa, Arizona Diamondbacks, Arizona Fall League, Atlanta Braves, Atlantic League, Long Island Ducks, Mickey Jannis, Mississippi Braves, Mobile BayBears, New York Mets. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.