Top draft pick Barnes is ready to change his stripes

By Nicole Auerbach
Globe Correspondent / June 9, 2011

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NEW YORK — With their first pick in the 2011 draft, the Red Sox chose 6-foot-4-inch, 210-pound righthander Matt Barnes, a lifelong Yankees fan.

Barnes doesn’t see that as a negative. He said he thinks his understanding of the Yankees helps him understand the organization that drafted him.

“It’s definitely ironic, but as much as I’ve always been a Yankees fan, I’ve always respected the Red Sox,’’ Barnes said on a conference call yesterday. “They run a great organization. They have a great team. They develop their players well.’’

Before Barnes can begin talking to the Sox about his own development, however, he has to finish his college season. Barnes’s UConn team defeated Clemson on draft night to advance to NCAA Tournament’s super regional play this weekend. The Huskies will take on South Carolina in a best-of-three series beginning Friday night. Barnes, 11-3 with a 1.12 ERA in 15 starts this season, is expected to start in the series.

Barnes was one of 10 Huskies drafted this year, a list that includes a fellow first-round pick, outfielder George Springer, who went 11th overall to the Astros. Though it has been tough to deal with draft excitement during a postseason run, Barnes finds comfort in the fact that he’s not alone.

“That helps,’’ he said. “It also helps that we have a lot going for us and we’re playing well. All focus right now is on UConn and trying to win a super regional.’’

Barnes said he expects to sit down with his parents and Sox officials after UConn’s season ends. He has pitched 116 2/3 innings this season — which makes Barnes think he might be asked to take some time off to rest his arm after the tournament.

In past summers, Barnes has played for the Wareham Gatemen of the Cape Cod League. Last year, after three starts, he was named to the USA amateur team. Standout performances on both teams catapulted Barnes from a relative unknown — he wasn’t drafted out of high school — to a first-rounder.

“What’s really helped me over the years and really turned me into a prospect was I grew as a person and grew as a player,’’ Barnes said. “I grew into my body, put on some weight.’’

Barnes played basketball in high school in addition to baseball, which meant he didn’t really have an offseason to build muscle or develop a weightlifting regimen. At UConn, Barnes said he focused on baseball and “hit the weight room hard.’’

That, plus dedicating himself to developing pitches besides a fastball, helped transform Barnes into one of the best college pitchers in the nation — and someone the Sox hope can help their organization.

The Sox completed the final 20 rounds of the draft yesterday, including drafting third baseman Matt Gedman from the University of Massachusetts in the 45th round. Gedman’s father, Rich, played 11 seasons as a catcher for the Sox. He is currently the hitting coach for Boston’s Short-A Lowell affiliate.

The Sox also chose a pair of righthanded pitchers with ties to the region: Corey Vogt from Keene State (39th round) and Norwood native John Gorman from Catholic Memorial High (50th round).

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