Emotional scene as Nats pitcher gets great news

September 3rd, 2019

Harrisburg Senators manager Matthew LeCroy stood on the mound at FNB Field and invited to stand alone with him in front of his teammates. The skipper of the Nationals’ Double-A affiliate had a message to deliver that was four years in the making.

“Today, I want to recognize a winner on our team,” LeCroy said. “You’ve been an inspiration to me, brother. An inspiration to the coaches and to these players.”

LeCroy stood quiet for a moment, visibly emotional and searching for his next words.

“It’s an honor that I got to manage you,” he said, fighting tears before pulling a ball out of his sweatshirt pocket and handing it to Barrett. “But it’s more of an honor to tell you that you’re going back to the big leagues.”

When the last teammate finished pouncing on Barrett in exuberance, the dust had finally settled: After Tommy John surgery in September of 2015, another surgery later that year to remove bone spurs in his left ankle and then surgery to repair a fractured elbow in '16, Barrett is finally getting his shot to return to the big leagues for the first time in over four years.

And this is no benevolent callup. The Nationals are deep in the throes of a Wild Card and divisional race, and they need all the arms they can get in a bullpen that has struggled all year. In 50 games with Harrisburg this season, Barrett compiled a 2.75 ERA with 62 strikeouts and just 16 walks in 52 1/3 innings.

The one they call “Bear” quickly became a fan favorite in D.C, and though his absence from Nationals Park has been lengthy, he's become a feel-good story. It helped that he had early success. Barrett, now 31, was included on the Nats’ postseason roster as a rookie in 2014 -- a year in which he allowed just 12 earned runs across 40 2/3 innings (2.66 ERA).

Years later, after the arduous rehab, step one in his journey was getting to Spring Training this past February for the first time since 2015.

"I would be lying to you if I said I was just happy to be here," Barrett said at the time. "My mindset has been since Day 1 to get back to the big leagues and pitch in the big leagues. … I think the Nationals know what I'm capable of when I'm healthy, and I'm here to prove that I'm healthy."

Now the last step is within his grasp.