MLB.com Columnist

Bill Ladson

Barrett makes most of each opportunity with Nats

Righty had plenty of success as a rookie in 2014, but he also faced adversity

Barrett makes most of each opportunity with Nats

VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals right-hander Aaron Barrett vowed to never let adversity get the best of him. He learned how to take the good with the bad by watching how players such as Adam LaRoche, Ian Desmond, Craig Stammen and Drew Storen reacted to certain situations.

"You just learn about their character, the way they handled themselves in tough times and good times," Barrett said. "… Just knowing that these guys have been through the good and the bad in their careers, you learned as much as possible, just the way those guys go about their business. It helped me a lot."

Barrett was a rookie last year, and he was solid for Washington. His 2.66 ERA doesn't tell the whole story. Manager Matt Williams had trust in Barrett, 27, in the late innings. Barrett was often facing a tough right-handed hitter, and he held righties to a .192 average. In the seventh and eighth innings, he had a combined 1.98 ERA.

It helped that Barrett had a wipeout slider and fastball that went as high as 96 mph

"What stands out to me is his ability to get in a situation that we put him in -- some tough situations against some good right-handed hitters -- and have success," Williams said about Barrett. "We saw that starting last year in Spring Training. We put him in those situations where he would face a tough guy because we wanted to see how he would react, and he reacted perfectly. It just transitioned there into the season. He wants the ball in that situation."

But Barrett did have his share of adversity. On June 30 against the Rockies, Barrett's unique motion was magnified when he was called for a balk while facing Justin Morneau. Barrett was forced to change tactics in the middle of the inning, removing the hitch from his routine, and he went into a slump after that, allowing six earned runs in his next 5 2/3 innings before he was sent down to Triple-A Syracuse.

Nationals dispute balk

Barrett acknowledged that he was upset when he was sent to Syracuse, but he looks at his time there as a blessing in disguise. While he was with the Chiefs, he started throwing a changeup, a pitch he didn't throw before being sent down. Barrett didn't think he should get beat with his third-best pitch. With help from pitching coach Paul Menhart, Barrett tweaked the grip and started throwing the changeup in Minor League games.

When Barrett returned to the big leagues in September, the changeup gave him a new weapon, especially against left-handers: He didn't allow an earned run for the rest of the regular season (seven innings).

Then came the postseason. In Game 4 of the National League Division Series, Barrett allowed the game-winning run against the Giants. With the bases loaded and Pablo Sandoval at the plate in the seventh inning, Barrett threw a wild pitch, scoring Joe Panik to give the Giants a 3-2 lead.

It was not the end of the world for Barrett.

"I've been blessed to play this game for a reason, but I know that God is the center of my life. He has been able to bless me with the ability to play this game," Barrett said. "As soon as I was able to grasp that concept, it kind of made things easier for me. Whether I have a good outing or a bad outing or an injury, I try to make the most of each and every opportunity and try and look at the positives."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.