Nearly nine years after signing with Oakland as a 16-year old, Luis Barrera‘s name can finally be found on Baseball-Reference.com.
The left-handed rookie, who can play all three outfield positions for the Oakland A’s, made his major league debut last Wednesday with two great catches in the ninth inning of an 8-1 loss to Houston. He struck out in his first big league at-bat but picked up his first hit, a single, in his first MLB start Sunday.
Barrera was born in the Dominican Republic and had to overcome a shoulder injury in 2019 before Covid-19 scuttled the 2020 season. He started 2021 in Las Vegas, putting up a .349 average in 11 games before being called up.
Barrera, through a translator, explained how hard it was to persevere, but said he believes the timing of everything which happened did so for a reason:
“It was a very tough year for me. I was having a really good year and then that tragic injury happened. It was difficult. I was really down. I remember crying a lot and just waiting and waiting for myself to finally get healthy. You just kinda remember those things and obviously the situation wasn’t in God’s will and you just keep fighting and keep fighting until you finally make it. And now here we are.”
The rookie earned his first major league start Sunday, going 1-for-3 in a 6-5 loss to the Angels. With Mark Canha out of the lineup after being hit by a pitch that still stung over the weekend, Barrera was able to start in left field.
Bob Melvin said he is unsure how long Barrera’s first stint in the majors will be with Mitch Moreland slowly recovering from his left rib injury which landed him on the 10-day IL. Melvin explained how Barrera has done and what he can take out of his first call up:
“He got a start. Sometimes that’s difficult for a younger player that comes up. We do have some pretty good outfield depth here so with Canha being out, it was a good day to get him a start. Getting your first hit out of the way is huge. So now you feel like you belong at the big league level and rightly so.”
When it comes to Barrera’s role, Melvin is still unsure and it weighs heavily on Moreland’s recovery:
“How many starts he gets here? I don’t know. Certainly the Moreland situation coming pretty soon could potentially affect that but he is just a really exciting player that we have liked for a while. Whether he is here for the long term or whether he is not, I think he is going to benefit from being here at the big league level and obviously he feels like he belongs, as he should and we want him to. Just kinda the start of his career, just not really sure what the timetable is going to be going forward.”
Barrera entered his first game in the top of the ninth and ran out to center field with his team trailing 8-1 against the Houston Astros. You wouldn’t expect him to get any action but he recorded the first two outs of the inning, and Melvin was happy to see him get some experience under his belt, even if it was just the one inning.
Barrera said getting called up is the greatest honor and he felt super proud when he went out for the ninth inning. He said he felt happy, and his family was happy as well. He explained how he felt in his first big league at-bat and how his first start felt:
“The feeling was pretty normal. Them taking me out obviously the manager’s decision and I am always ready, happy and willing to play at any moment… the first one is always very emotional and always a very emotional and very nervous moment for me. God didn’t want me to get my first hit on the first one but we strived through it and played the next one and obviously the result was the result and thanks be to God that, that happened and I felt very proud.”
When Barrera ran into the dugout for his teams final at-bats, he was in the hole. He struck out swinging, but Melvin was happy he was able to get some experience:
“He made two nice plays in the outfield, we talked about him playing all three positions. To have to face a lefty in his first at bat that can be a little tough, someone he probably hasn’t seen before. So at least now he has his feet wet a little bit, has made a couple plays in the outfield. He has an at bat under his belt so there are always some nerves in your first game and we will see where we go from here.”
Barrera kept the ball from Sunday when he earned his first hit, an opposite field single. Melvin explained there won’t be very many shifts on the youngster due to his ability to hit to all sides of the field. Barrera knows that is his style of play and spoke about how honored he is to be playing at this level:
“That is the greatest honor putting it into perspective is you work so hard in the minor leagues and you finally get the opportunity and I finally was able to connect and get that first hit once I was given it.”
The 25-year-old can hit to all sides of the field, has a laser arm, and speed. In 2019 Barrera was playing in high Double-A ball in Midland, Tex., and Barrera spent 2020 at the A’s alternate site where he was able to quickly show where he improved. He arrived to spring training late this year due to Visa issues but Melvin is not surprised to see him at this level:
“He gets called up to the big leagues for the first time and down there he was hitting what .350 or something close to that so he was definitely the guy to bring up. We will see where we go with it. I have been impressed with him for a couple springs, I have told him that. I told him before we left that I expect him to be in the big leagues this year and he is here so special day for him. As far as usage goes, I am not sure yet.”
When Barrera was taken out of the Las Vegas Aviators lineup in the bottom of the fourth inning last Monday, both he and his family were confused. But when they realized what was going on, they couldn’t have been happier to see him exit a game early:
“It surprised me. I was playing in the game and I didn’t really know what was going on but then after they told me… It was a big surprise for me and my family. I didn’t really know what was going on and they didn’t know what was going on either since they pulled me out of the game but once I told them they started crying and they understood and I started crying as well.”
He thanked God for allowing all his hard work to pay off, and said he was proud when Melvin shared the news. Melvin knows exactly what that first call-up feeling is like, and despite being a manager for almost 20 seasons, the conversations still warm his heart:
“It is not lost on me how big a day this is for these guys. You just hark back to when it happened to yourself and there is nothing like it. It is what you play for, what you have been playing for your whole life, since little league to get to the big leagues. … there are just a lot of things that are going to make it a special day for him and no it is not lost on me at all.”
With Canha back the lineup, and Moreland looking to return by the end of the current homestand, there isn’t much room for Barrera to prove what he is capable of contributing at the major league level. Even so, Barrera is gaining the experience and exposure he needs, and now has some major league games under his belt.
Melvin broke down what will be the key for Barrera if he wants to extend his stint longer than Moreland’s return:
“He’s got some pull power as well. But I think what we like about him is that he sprays the ball all the way around, all over the field which allows him to not get positioned maybe a little bit more so but yeah I mean we’ve seen him hit balls on the left field line in spring and we have seen hit them down the right field line. It’s just going to be consistent at-bats that’s going to be important for him.”
Luis Barrera has known Ramón Laureano for a long time, playing in the same Dominican Republic baseball organizations. Laureano has taken Barrera under his wing since the call up.