Barnes nearly cycles, plates six for Peoria
Astros outfielder taking advantage of consistent playing time
Brandon Barnes has been trying to find a rhythm and consistency at the plate ever since he was bumped up to a starter earlier this month. For a taxi squad outfielder waiting for his chance, Friday's results have to feel good.
Barnes, an Astros prospect, went 3-for-5, plated six runs and fell a double shy of hitting for the cycle in the Peoria Javelinas' 11-4 road win over Phoenix.
"Once I made the adjustments at the plate getting regular time, it really kicked in," he said.
Barnes, a sixth-round pick in 2005, began the Arizona Fall League season playing once or twice a week at most, but when fellow Houston farmhand J.B. Shuck went down with a sprained knee, he got the call for everyday play.
On Friday, he had a chance to hit for the cycle for the second time this year -- he managed the feat on June 10 while with Class A Advanced Lancaster. Memories of that day didn't make it any easier for him to focus in his final at-bat.
"It's something you can't not think about," Barnes said. "But you try to think about it as least as possible. So, yeah, it was definitely on my mind."
Barnes hit a two-run homer in the fourth inning, his first of the fall, after entering the game with one RBI in eight starts.
"I was looking [for a pitch] up, I'm pretty sure it was a slider up and in, and I just turned on it, let my hands go and let the bat do the work," he said.
Barnes' three-run triple highlighted a five-run fifth inning rally off Yankees prospect George Kontos. The Javs loaded the bases on walks from Cord Phelps (Indians) and 2009 first-round pick Dustin Ackley (Mariners) and a single from Astros first baseman Koby Clemens. Mike McDade (Blue Jays) drew a bases-loaded walk before Barnes cleared the bases with a three-bagger to left. He came around to score the frame's final run on a double by Eric Thames (Blue Jays).
"I just came in and tried to get good pitches," Barnes said. "Lately I've been swinging at some bad pitches, so I wanted to see the ball up and get something I could drive.
The Cypress College product had a chance to finish the cycle with two outs in the eighth, but grounded out to end the inning.
The 24-year-old split the 2010 season between Lancaster and Triple-A Round Rock and showed good power and speed, hitting a combined .270 with 28 homers, 81 RBIs and 23 stolen bases.
Despite the stellar year, he said he's still primarily focused on improving at the plate.
"[I want] to grow as a hitter, my defense has always been my strong point," he said. "It'd help if I can get better with my stick, just get into better counts and hit situations, it'll really help."
Players on the AFL taxi squad, like Nationals top pick Bryce Harper, see limited time on the field. Shuck's injury was unfortunate, but it's an opportunity for others to step up and prove themselves.
"I came down here with taxi squad, so I knew I'd only be playing one or two days a week," he said.
Getting at-bats almost ever day, though, is a nice feeling.
"It's been awesome, it's been a great experience," he said. "It's an awesome experience."
NOTES: Ryan Curry (Marlins) hit his first AFL homer in the seventh and drove in two runs for Phoenix. ...Michael Taylor (Athletics) continues to struggle, but did manage to knock home two runs for the Dogs. He's batting .260 this fall, but .152 in his last 10 games. ...Lefty Scott Barnes (Indians) was thankful for the offensive support of his fellow Barnes, picking up his first win despite allowing three runs on five hits over four innings. He threw 68 pitches. ...Former Marlins fifth-rounder Peter Andrelczyk started for Phoenix but was tagged for three runs -- two earned -- on four hits and a walk over four frames. He struck out seven. ...Kontos continues to look for answers. The New York right-hander has given up two or more runs in four of his last five relief appearances and now owns a 10.13 ERA for the Desert Dogs.
Danny Wild is an editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.