Casey Barnes wanted to play in the Atlantic League because of the high level of competition and the veteran-laden rosters. He got a taste of that almost as soon as he threw on a Ducks cap. Barns, who started 20 games last season for the River City (Mo.) Rascals of the Frontier League, entered the Ducks season opener on April 25 against the Somerset Patriots in the 15th inning and took the loss. It wasn't exactly the "welcome to the Atlantic League" moment that he was hoping for.
In his first four games, including one spot-start, the righthander was 0-1 with a 7.36 ERA. He gave up six runs and struck out nine in 71/3 innings.
Barns was born and raised in Arizona. The 25-year old fondly remembers attending Game One of the 2001 World Series, when the Arizona Diamondbacks topped the Yankees, 9-1. Barns pitched in five games in the Phillies organization in 2011. He was acquired by the Ducks in January in a trade with River City, in exchange for future considerations.
When you found out that you were coming to LI, what kind of emotions ran through your head? What was the process like?
I was playing winter ball in Australia. I was struggling early on, but I later started having some success. I found an agent that helped me. He said, 'If you sign with me, I might be able to get you in the Atlantic League.' I signed with him and, one week later, he told me he could line up a trade with the Ducks. At that point, I was really excited. I said, '\Heck yeah, make it happen!' I was thrilled to death when he told me I'd get a chance to play at this level.
Did you know much about the Ducks organization?
Not really. This is my fourth year in Independent League baseball. I know that the Atlantic League is pretty much a notch up on everybody, just because of the experience that's here. My goal had always been to get in the league, but I didn't know that the Ducks had been really successful and had won [two consecutive] championships until I started talks with them.
What's been the biggest challenge transitioning from starting to coming out of the bullpen?
It's the warm-up. When you start, you're on your own time. I can have 45 minutes if I wanted. When you're a reliever, [pitching coach Steve Foucault] will ring down on the walkie-talkie and say 'Hey Barns, start warming up.' You have a very small time frame to get warm. But they're a lot of players here that are older than me [such as] Steve Garrison and Fernando Hernandez that have helped me with the transition. Some guys try to stay lose every inning. They'll do some agility work or throw with the rightfielder. Little things like that keep you lose throughout the game.
The team has lost a few tight game early in the season. Is it easy to players to magnify individual games early in the year?
Absolutely. For me, I magnified that first game. I thought 'Gosh, I just lost the game for us in 15 innings.' I've been fortunate to have older players help me through the process and get adjusted to the leaguer pretty well.
What was your experience in A ball with the Phillies like?
It was awesome. I loved everybody in the organization. My pitching coaches treated me really well. I had a great experience there. The league was younger. There were a lot of talented players, guys with five tools that could throw 95 mph. In this league, hitters are a lot more polished. Guys have approaches. They're not just up there swinging the bat. That's where the differences lie.