INDIANAPOLIS — He has two options: fight or flight.
Well, really just one option is viable for Barrett Barnes after suffering another hamstring injury.
Fight to get back on the field.
Fight to prove his doubters wrong.
Fight to reach his dream of being a major league player.
“My dad raised me and he was a Marine,” Barnes said. “There was no flight in that household. If there was something that needed to be handled, you stood up and you took care of it.”
Barnes was running out an infield single in the bottom of the fifth inning in an innocuous Sunday afternoon game on June 11.
He went to the ground quickly just past first base.
Barnes knew what had happened, evident by slamming his helmet on the ground. The feeling was too frustratingly familiar. It was a hamstring injury, the sixth of his professional career, which led to his tenth trip to the disabled list.
Just as he seemed to be turning a corner in his debut Triple-A season, Barnes was going back to the disabled list and not for a short time. He is just now getting close to possibly playing in a rehab game with one of the lower-level teams.
The injury was frustrating enough, but Barnes opened up his social media pages and came across several opinions from those outside the organization.
“Guy gets hurt to (sic) much will never make it,” one person wrote on Twitter in reply to news about the latest hamstring injury.
Barnes simply replied: “Thanks, buddy,” which drew the backhanded response: “Sorry buddy can’t make the club in the tub. Hope you do and for best of health.”
“Everyone knows that, but don’t disrespect my career, my dreams, and my family with your opinions,” Barnes tweeted.
Barnes doesn’t regret the words he wrote, but wouldn’t typically get into an argument over social media. He’s not an overly active tweeter — making just one post since the day of his injury.
But that tweet — along with several others calling him injury-prone — occurred a few hours after realizing he was likely going to be on the mend for an extended time.
“He just caught me at a bad time,” Barnes said.
He’s heard the naysayers. They’re on social media, obviously, and even had a disagreement in the Altoona clubhouse last year with someone else about his potential, though he wanted to leave those details unspoken to the general public.
All of those comments and thoughts are bottled up, used as motivation to prove doubters wrong about his future. As Barnes says, it’s not something he wants to go through but “if someone is going to throw a little bit of gas on your fire you might as well use it to benefit yourself.”
“One thing that really gets me is when someone tells me I can’t do something or I won’t accomplish something,” Barnes said. “That kind of takes me to another level and something I kind of tapped into the other year in Altoona, basically people thinking I was kind of washed up and that I was going to be a bust. That pushed me to a new level and that second half was basically a statement that I made. I was really proud of myself and thankful for it.”
Barnes had a slow start last season with Double-A Altoona, but finished on a strong note. He had a slash line of .404/.457/.521 with a .978 OPS in July; followed by a slash line of .360/.434/.709 with a 1.144 OPS in August.
He had regained some momentum in his career, but that was derailed with a hamstring injury in Spring Training that kept him off the field until mid-May.
So, he worked his way back again but struggled by hitting just .156 during 15 games in May; before starting to hit his stride in June with a .393 batting average in nine games.
“He was adjusting to the league and his confidence was growing,” Indianapolis manager Andy Barkett said. “You were seeing a different Barrett Barnes when he got hurt from when he first got here. I was encouraged where he was going and the direction he was going.”
Just as quickly as he was finding some momentum, Barnes was headed to the disabled list for the 10th time as a professional, sixth for a hamstring issue. The most at-bats he’s had in a season was 406 last year with Altoona, when he only missed a few weeks with a concussion.
“Is it impossible for him to make it back and get to the big leagues? Absolutely, not,” Barkett said. “Is it going to be difficult for him to do that? Yeah, just based on his history. He hasn’t been able to stay on the field for 500 at-bats in his career in one season. He needs to do that in order to have a chance to go play in the big leagues, produce and put up numbers.”
Barnes’ struggles aren’t for a lack of trying. Or, a lack of trying new things. At this point, he’ll try any new technique to keep his hamstrings healthy, although there probably aren’t many left that he hasn’t given a try.
“Honestly that’s all I’ve done the last four years — make adjustments to the daily routine, the daily fluid intake, nutritional intake, warmup, postgame,” Barnes said. “That’s all my whole life has been as far as training the last four years: hamstring prevention, hamstring recovery, hamstring strength. I guess the best way to put it is we haven’t cracked the code yet.”
He’s taken hydration tests twice a day, when he arrives at the park and before he leaves to make sure his fluids are at the right level.
To ensure his electrolyte levels are high enough, Barnes has ingested The Right Stuff pouches, which he says “are absolutely disgusting.”
There have been a myriad of massages for stabilizing muscles around the hamstring. He’s worked to strengthen the hamstring.
Well, you get the idea.
“You do everything you’re asked, there’s nothing you’re missing but it’s just something we haven’t put our finger on yet,” Barnes said. “It’s a big question mark is the best way I can put it. It just hasn’t, for whatever reason, or for whatever plan that God has for me, it just hasn’t clicked. But that doesn’t mean that I stop there.”
Barnes took batting practice with the GCL players on Friday at Pirate City in Florida, and he went through a normal workout on Monday. His next step will to likely play rehab games in the GCL.
The journey back to Triple-A — and ideally for him the major leagues — won’t be an easy one with no guarantee of future health problems. But that’s not going to stop Barnes from pushing through as he uses his setbacks as motivation to accomplish his goals.