WASHINGTON -- It was a cruel twist of fate that the day Nationals right-hander Aaron Barrett fractured his right elbow was also the day he felt best during his long recovery from Tommy John surgery. On the 11th pitch of a 20-pitch simulated game in late July, he felt a snap in his arm.
Barrett had been watching every Nationals game from the team's Spring Training home in Viera, Fla. -- he still does, even on the West Coast -- and was hoping to return this season and contribute in September as a possible callup when rosters expand. He was set to begin a Minor League rehab assignment within the next week, the end finally in sight as he worked his way back from a torn ulnar collateral ligament. Those dreams came to a halt.
"It was traumatizing. It was like someone hit me in the gut, like, a million times," Barrett said Friday in his first appearance at Nationals Park since the surgery. " ... But it's literally -- I have a bionic arm now, and I'm literally going to come back stronger than ever."
One of the most enthusiastic and positive members of the Nationals, Barrett was in good spirits about his injury Friday. He was an important part of the Nats' bullpen during their last division championship team in 2014, when he posted a 2.66 ERA in 50 appearances with 49 strikeouts in 40 2/3 innings. He had less success last season as he pitched through ankle and elbow pain before he landed on the disabled list.
He was not sure what the new timetable for his return would be, but he was encouraged at how well his recovery was going and said he was ahead of the curve. Barrett even bragged about his new bionic elbow, which he said has some "serious hardware" inside of it that even set off a metal detector once.
"All in all, you just got to stay positive," he said. "There's no other way to look at it. It's kind of the person I am; literally, I feel like I'm going to come back stronger than ever."
Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.