Barbato pleased with big league debut

Barbato pleased with big league debut

NEW YORK -- None of the daydreams that Johnny Barbato had about his debut would have involved drilling the first batter with a 94-mph fastball, but other than that, the young right-hander was thrilled to finally set foot on a big league mound.

Barbato faced five Astros in his first Major League appearance, striking out three without permitting a hit in Tuesday's 5-3 Yankees loss. Struggling to grip the ball in frigid conditions, the 23-year-old hit Tyler White on the right hand with his first big league pitch but recovered quickly.

"I liked what I did; just came out and tried to pound the strike zone," Barbato said. "I was just trying to keep us within a couple of runs. The way the game was, I just tried to get us back in the dugout so we could score some runs. Honestly, that's all I was thinking."

Barbato, 23, became just the fourth Yankees pitcher since 1913 to record at least three strikeouts without a hit or a walk in his Major League debut, joining Stan Bahnsen (1966), Edwar Ramirez (2007) and Alfredo Aceves (2008).

The winner of the James P. Dawson Award as the Yankees' outstanding rookie this spring, Barbato made the Opening Day roster after posting a 1.64 ERA in 11 Grapefruit League appearances. He was given the ball from his first strikeout (Marwin Gonzalez, swinging) and the lineup card before meeting with his family outside the clubhouse.

"I went straight down, saw them, talked to them for a little bit. It was pretty neat," Barbato said. "My whole family is here; my grandmother, parents, sisters, uncle and a bunch of other family friends."

Barbato was acquired from the Padres for right-hander Shawn Kelley after the 2014 season. At the time, general manager Brian Cashman suggested that Barbato might need Tommy John surgery; strained ligaments in the hurler's elbow, sustained while snapping off a curveball in a prospect game at Minute Maid Park, had cut his velocity from 96 mph to the mid-80s.

The velocity is back, and thus far Barbato has been able to avoid the knife, which he credits to a treatment routine that followed a long period of rest. He was 6-2 with three saves, a 2.67 ERA and 70 strikeouts in 40 appearances for Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2015, and Barbato hopes to keep that rolling now that he is in the Majors.

"I'm doing the little things every day, like going in, stretching out and making sure my arm feels good," Barbato said. "Obviously when you're feeling good, you're going to be able to do more things, be a better player. I think that's what mostly helped me out."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch, on Facebook and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.