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Red Sox notebook: Matt Barnes calls DFA and trade ‘a complete blindside’

Boston Herald 2/2/2023 Gabrielle Starr
Matt Barnes makes the long walk to the dugout after allowing a two-run home run to Jose Abreu of the Chicago White Sox on June 26, 2019. (Staff Photo By Christopher Evans/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald) © Provided by Boston Herald Matt Barnes makes the long walk to the dugout after allowing a two-run home run to Jose Abreu of the Chicago White Sox on June 26, 2019. (Staff Photo By Christopher Evans/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

Matt Barnes kept things diplomatic in his first media availability since being traded to the Miami Marlins earlier this week, but despite telling Marlins and Red Sox reporters that he felt “very fortunate for everything the Red Sox have given (him)” and wasn’t looking back on his time “with any animosity,” tension and sadness mingled with professionalism.

The 32-year-old righty revealed that he and his wife were in Las Vegas for a friend’s wedding when chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom called to let him know that he was being designated for assignment. He described the news as “a complete blindside.”

Six days later, he was waiting out a five-hour flight delay at the Vegas airport when he heard from Bloom again, this time, about the trade.

Letting his actions speak for him, Barnes declined to comment on his retweet of a tweet about being “run into the ground” after the DFA, but acknowledged that his shoulder “flared up” when his workload increased.

Barnes admitted that it’s “going to be weird” to suit up for the Marlins, but gave an optimistic frame to the situation, saying, “Weird’s not a bad thing. I’m looking forward to the opportunity and obviously looking forward to getting down there. It’s going to be different. I’m going from an organization where I know everybody. You go from something like that where that’s all you’ve known for 12 years, there’s absolutely going to be an adjustment process. There’s absolutely going to be things I’m going to have to learn.”

To say this is unfamiliar territory is an understatement given that he not only spent his entire professional career with the same organization, but was also born and raised in the region. The veteran reliever is a Connecticut native who played baseball with Sox hitting coach Pete Fatse at UConn, and spent two summers pitching in the historic Cape Cod Baseball League. In 2011, Barnes was the organization’s first-round pick in the MLB Draft, and by 2022, he was the longest-tenured member of the bullpen by far. His 429 regular-season appearances rank third in franchise history behind Bob Stanley (637) and Tim Wakefield (590).

Barnes leaves Boston with a World Series ring, but he opened up about how difficult the last two years have been. In July 2021, the Sox signed him to a two-year extension within days of his first All-Star game, but he fell apart in the second half and only found his way back late in the ’22 season:

“I go from being an All-Star closer to not making a postseason roster to being terrible for two months then on the IL for another two … from the highest to the lows in the blink of an eye, it felt like. That’s not easy to deal with, honestly, especially since I felt like it was my responsibility to be the guy at the back end when all else failed.”

It’s “kind of a bitter sweet ending,” but Barnes will have a fresh start in Miami and a chance to make the Sox regret the trade; the Marlins come to Fenway June 27-29.

No WBC for Casas

Chris Cotillo reports that Triston Casas won’t be participating in the World Baseball Classic, but the Sox expect ‘about 10-12’ players to partake:

Kiké Hernández (Puerto Rico), Rafael Devers (Dominican Republic), Masataka Yoshida (Japan), Alex Verdugo (Mexico), Nick Pivetta (Canada), Ceddanne Rafaela (Netherlands), Jorge Alfaro (Colombia), Richard Bleier (Israel) and Ryan Sherriff (Israel) are expected to play. Christian Arroyo (Puerto Rico) and Kenley Jansen (Netherlands) are maybes.

More non-roster invitees

The Red Sox have added 10 non-roster invitees to the 2023 spring training roster: RHPs Dan Altavilla, Taylor Broadway, Durbin Feltman, Victor Santos, and Chase Shugart, INFs Christian Koss and Matthew Lugo, INF/OFs Ryan Fitzgerald and Nick Sogard, and catcher Stephen Scott.

Rafaela skyrockets

Prospects guru Keith Law ranked Ceddanne Rafaela No. 37 on his Top 100 prospects list for The Athletic.

It’s a significant departure from how other evaluators view the organization’s 2022 breakout star; Rafaela currently sits at No. 3 in the Sox system, but ranks 86th in MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 and 71st by Baseball America.

While Law echoed the organization’s concerns about the 22-year-old’s plate discipline, he praised Rafaela’s speed and “elite” defense. Rafaela hasn’t reached Triple-A yet, but Law still placed him just ahead of Casas, whose September debut prompted the Sox to construct the 2023 roster with him as the projected everyday first baseman; he slotted in at No. 40.

Law also moved Marcelo Mayer, Boston’s No. 1 prospect, from No. 18 to No. 11, and has a high opinion of 19-year-old Miguel Bleis; he listed him at No. 72, compared to No. 93 in the pipeline and No. 88 for Baseball America.

Ockimey retires, rejoins Sox

Josh Ockimey, a Triple-A PawSox/WooSox fan-favorite, announced his retirement from professional baseball this week.

After spending the 2022 MiLB season with his hometown Phillies, he’s rejoining the Sox organization in their professional scouting department.

The Sox drafted Ockimey as their fifth-round pick in the 2014 draft, and he opted to forgo his college commitment and begin his professional career. In 2017, Baseball America ranked him the organization’s No. 10 prospect. He was promoted to Triple-A in August 2018, but remained at the penultimate level until the end of the 2021 season.

Competing with higher-ranked first-base prospects such as Michael Chavis, Bobby Dalbec and Casas, Ockimey’s path to the majors was consistently blocked. But given how Chavis and Dalbec panned out, it’s unfortunate Ockimey never got a shot in the majors. He often displayed serious power potential during spring training and in Triple-A, hitting 11 doubles and 15 home runs in 98 games for the WooSox in 2021.

Over his seven seasons in the Sox system, Ockimey became a well-respected member of the organization. At the end of the inaugural WooSox season in 2021, he was the first-ever recipient of their “Heart of the Heart” community service award.

New Truck Day tradition?

Over the past 20 years, Truck Day has become an eagerly-awaited tradition, the first glimmer of hope that a long winter will soon lead to a new baseball season.

At 7 a.m. on Friday, the 53-foot truck will be loaded up with equipment, including 20,400 baseballs, 1,100 bats and 60 cases of sunflower seeds, and Al Hartz will chauffeur the goods from Fenway Park to Fenway South, the team’s spring training complex in Fort Myers, Fla.

This is Hartz’s 25th consecutive year making the trip, but for the first time, the truck will make a pit stop at the organization’s Triple-A Polar Park, which opened in Worcester in May 2021.The WooSox plan to greet the Milford native with their mascots and a care package full of local treats to take on the 1,480-mile drive.

Fans are invited to attend the Fenway departure (12 p.m.) and the Polar stop (approximately 1 p.m.).

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