Kansas City Royals

Royals provide former Brewers pitcher Jacob Barnes with a chance for a ‘fresh start’

Right-handed reliever Jacob Barnes gets another chance in the big leagues with a new organization and health on his side, while the Royals get an experienced reliever to add to a bullpen stocked with youngsters.

The Royals claimed Barnes, 29, off waivers and optioned him to Triple-A Omaha earlier this month. The club optioned left-handed pitcher Eric Skoglund back to the minors on Monday, and recalled Barnes prior to Tuesday’s game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Kauffman Stadium.

Barnes, a right-hander, spent parts of four seasons in the majors with the Milwaukee Brewers, including the start of this season, and made 167 appearances since 2016. The Brewers designated him for assignment on Aug. 1.

“He’s a good competitor, a good teammate, good make-up, fell in love a little bit with his cutter,” Royals manager Ned Yost said of the reports on Barnes. “He’s got a good fastball, got to get him back to using it a little bit.

“They just got into a crunch because they picked up some guys and needed a roster spot. They didn’t really want to get rid of him. It’s good that we were able to get him. I’m anxious to see him. We’ll mix him in.”

Barnes throws a sinker, four-seam fastball, and cutter as well as a slider, though the slider and cutter often get confused for one another.

Barnes registered a 1-1 record and a 6.68 ERA, a 1.68 WHIP and a .265 opponents’ batting average in 18 games for the Brewers this season prior to being sent down to the minors and eventually taken off the 40-man roster following the trade deadline.

“I had a little hip thing going on, was pitching through it, eventually I went down and finally had to say something when I was in the minors,” Barnes said. “I think it was one of those things where it was a numbers situation and they weren’t sure how the hip would respond.”

Barnes went on the minor-league injured list on June 29, and he did not pitch again until July 20. He made three more appearances in the minors with the Brewers before being designated for assignment.

While pitching for the Royals’ Triple-A affiliate, Barnes posted a 3.38 ERA with six strikeouts in three brief outings (2 2/3 innings).

Barnes said he’s looking forward to a “fresh start” and hopes to return to the form he showed when originally called up to the majors in 2016.

In 27 appearances in 2016, he recorded a 2.70 ERA, a 1.13 WHIP and opponents batted .245 against him. In 2017, Barnes made 73 appearances with 25 holds, a 4.00 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and a .215 opponents’ batting average.

“Getting more aggressive,” Barnes said of his focus. “I’d kind of gotten to a point where I was throwing a little bit too much off-speed because it was getting a lot of swings and misses and stuff. So they were liking me throwing that a lot. When I first came up back in ‘16 with them, what I was successful with was attacking and coming at them with hard stuff.

“After I started treating the hip and there wasn’t any pain anymore, I was able to feel it a little better and let it loose. Just getting back to that was the big thing.”

Skoglund, who was called up to join the team in Detroit on Friday, served as a long relief option with the bullpen taxed after Jorge Lopez’s spot start on Thursday. Skoglund returns to the minors where he’s expected to return to the starting pitching rotation and pitch regularly.

Skoglund served an 80-game performance-enhancing drug suspension to start the season, and he’s made just 12 starts in the minors this season. He’ll likely get called up when rosters expand in September if not sooner.

“We don’t want Skoglund up here sitting right now,” Yost said. “He’s missed half a year, he needs to pitch.”

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Lynn Worthy covers the Kansas City Royals and Major League Baseball for The Star. A native of the Northeast, he’s covered high school, collegiate and professional sports for The Lowell Sun, Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin, Allentown Morning Call and The Salt Lake Tribune. He’s won awards for sports features and sports columns.