Kyle Barraclough, the reliever the Washington Nationals envisioned would handle the seventh inning this season, returned from the 10-day injured list, but he will not be rejoining the major league team. Instead, the Nationals optioned the 29-year-old right-hander to Class AA Harrisburg, the team announced Wednesday morning.
After Barraclough went on the IL on June 16 with radial nerve damage, it became increasingly unclear how the Nationals would open a roster spot for him once he returned. In the team’s current eight-man bullpen, only two players — right-handers Tanner Rainey and Wander Suero — have options remaining. Anyone else would have needed to be designated for assignment if they were removed from the 25-man roster.
Before Barraclough hit the IL, he had struggled to be the effective workhorse he had been at the start of his career with the Miami Marlins. In 2016, he had a 2.85 ERA in 75 appearances, and despite seeing his innings decrease each season, his ERA has grown, topping out this season at 6.39. The night before he hit the IL, Barraclough allowed a two-run homer in a 10-3 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks, which gave him 16 earned runs in his past 11 innings.
The injury surfaced after the game, Manager Dave Martinez said. In hindsight, Martinez thought the break might help a pitcher who’s thrown as much as Barraclough. The reliever thought so, too, and he said he enjoyed focusing on his health in his rehab stint in Fort Myers, Fla., rather than focusing on trying to get hitters out.
This year, his velocity has declined, the four-seamer bottoming out at a career-low average of 93.3 mph. Barraclough himself attributed this to getting sidetracked by developing breaking balls, though he’s struggled to locate his secondary pitches, too.
Last October, the Nationals traded $1 million in international slot money to the Marlins for Barraclough, despite the right-hander coming off his worst season with a 4.20 ERA in 55 2/3 innings. They hoped he would find a groove as a high-leverage reliever, and though he occasionally showed he could handle the eighth-inning role when Trevor Rosenthal showed he couldn’t, Barraclough could not remain a consistent enough pitcher to lock it down.
Now, in Harrisburg, Barraclough will get a chance to work his way back to the Nationals.