After time off, Barnes hopes to claim roster spot
Outfielder skipped winter ball to take mental break, be with family
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Staying home was the best move that Rockies outfield hopeful Brandon Barnes made this offseason.
"This is the first offseason I didn't play winter ball in three years -- I'd played in Venezuela, Australia and the [Arizona] Fall League," said Barnes, 27, obtained from the Astros in a November trade. "Venezuela wanted me to play in their playoffs, but I promised my wife [Shawn] that I would stay home. She's due March 24, so I stayed home and helped take care of the baby [daughter Kenadie]. I spent a lot of time the last three years away from my family.
"Being away in a different country, it's tough because I don't get to see them. I wanted to take that time off and I wanted to work really hard on what I needed to do at home."
Grounded and rested, Barnes arrived at Spring Training fresh, and it has shown. Hoping to grab a spot on the Opening Day roster, Barnes is 5-for-10 (.500) and succeeding at situational tasks.
In Tuesday's 3-2 loss to the Giants at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, Barnes singled in the sixth inning off Giants pitcher Ryan Vogelsong and scored on Ryan Wheeler's double to left field.
Rockies manager Walt Weiss isn't setting any limitations on what Barnes can earn.
"He's in the mix with the rest of the outfielders," Weiss said. "Even early in the spring, it seems like he's in the middle of everything when we score runs. He brings an edge to him when he plays, which I like. He competes really well.
"He's strong. He's looking for consistency, like a lot of guys are. But he's got some raw power, hit some long home runs in Houston."
Barnes started in center field for much of last season with the Astros and finished with a .240 batting average, eight home runs and 41 RBIs. Barnes appeared for the Astros in 2012 (.204 in 43 games) and his offensive numbers are not strong, but the Rockies liked his defense and saw him as eventually hitting with occasional power.
When the Rockies obtained him and starting pitcher Jordan Lyles for center fielder Dexter Fowler, much of the motivation was to clear payroll room to sign first baseman Justin Morneau for two years at $12.5 million. Both Barnes and Lyles can be sent to the Minors without being exposed to waivers, but Barnes could grab a spot if he continues to make solid contact and handle the bat well.
Barnes will have to remain impressive to grab a roster spot. Wisdom coming into camp was that the Rockies' center field would be manned by right-handed-hitting Drew Stubbs and one of two lefty hitters, Charlie Blackmon or Corey Dickerson. It could come down to whether the Rockies want to keep both lefty hitters, or if there is room for a right-handed bat off the bench. Non-roster invitee Jason Pridie also is in the mix, as are outfielder-catcher Matt McBride and Rockies-developed players Kent Matthes and Tim Wheeler.
Barnes did more than household duties this winter. He arrived at camp ready to play all three outfield positions, and he has made contact consistently.
"I definitely think staying at home refreshed my body and my mind," he said. "I had kind of a mental break. I didn't overthink things in the offseason, but I knew what I had to do, so I made a gameplan. I went over my approach and thought to myself what I needed to do and went out and worked on it."