After beginning the season buried on the Nationals’ organizational depth chart, Tres Barrera reached the major leagues and made his presence felt. The 26-year-old rookie launched his first MLB home run in Monday’s 18-1 trouncing of the Miami Marlins, earning the silent treatment from his teammates upon his return to the dugout.
“Kinda blacked out running the bases,” Barrera said on a Zoom call after the game. “I was just trying to get a pitch to hit, put a couple runs together there early. Just since I’ve been called up, I’ve been trying to do whatever I can to help the team win games, trying to put some wins together and stay in this playoff hunt and I just got a good pitch and I hit it.
“Going back to the silent treatment, I was excited myself so I was gonna celebrate by myself either way until everybody came.”
Barrera, a 2016 sixth-round pick out of UT Austin, first reached the majors in 2019 but only appeared in two games. He then sat out the entire 2020 season for testing positive for the banned substance oral Turinabol, or DHCMT. Barrera sued MLB over his 80-game suspension, which was later reduced in a settlement.
He returned to the Nationals this spring and hit .083 (1-for-12) in 13 Grapefruit League games. Washington originally optioned him to Triple-A Rochester but called him right back up when a coronavirus outbreak ravaged their roster. Though he’s only hit .224 with three home runs in 37 games with the Red Wings this year, injuries to Yan Gomes (oblique) and Alex Avila (quads) gave him a chance back in the majors.
“Going into spring training, my mindset was I knew we had [Yan] Gomes and [Alex] Avila and if I got an opportunity, my job was just to come in and do whatever I can to help the team win,” Barrera said. “This opportunity came and I’m here and I’m just trying to do whatever I can to help the team at this point.”
Barrera has still had some growing pains as a rookie, most notably with his arm: He’s 0-for-4 trying to throw out base stealers. However, starter Jon Lester, who homered Monday as well, credited him with executing a strong game plan Monday as the lefty struck out a season-high seven hitters over seven scoreless innings with Barrera behind the plate.
“He did a great job tonight,” Lester said. “He’s learning this stuff on the fly and coming up big with his first homer of his career, which is awesome to see. But yeah, we worked well tonight. Communication was awesome and we had good results so that’s always an added bonus.”