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BASEBALL: Barnette signs two-year contract to return to Yakult Tokyo Swallows
It looks like Tony Barnette will be spending another two years playing professional baseball in Japan. The Thomas Jefferson High School graduate reportedly inked a deal to remain with the Yakult Tokyo Swallows of Japan's Central League.
According to MLBtraderumors.com, the right-handed pitcher signed a two-year, $3.2 million contract. Barnette recently completed his third season with the Swallows and it was easily his best in Japan.
As the Swallows' closer, Barnette saved 33 games during the 2012 season with an impressive 1.82 earned-run average. The 29-year-old was voted into the Japan League all-star series.
The Yokult Tokyo Swallows finished 68-65 and in third place in the Central League. The Yomiuri Giants won the league with a 86-43 record.
Barnette originally signed a one-year deal with the Swallows on Jan. 7, 2010, after a steady rise through the minor league system of the Arizona Diamondbacks' organization.
The Diamondbacks drafted the right-handed pitcher in the 10th-round in 2006 following a stellar career at Arizona State University. He started out in rookie ball in 2006, pitched in the Single-A Midwest League in 2007, the Double-A Southern League in ‘08 and spent the entire 2009 season playing for the Reno Aces of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League.
Barnette finished 14-8 with a 5.79 earned-run average for Reno in 2009 before inking with the Swallows during the offseason.
Barnette's 2012 is a far cry from how his journey to Japan began. In 2010, he was just 4-5 with a 5.99 ERA. He gave up 99 hits in 79 innings and struck out 70, mostly as a starter.
Barnette was eventually released by the Swallows after the season and he thought his Japan experiment was over.
But due to a variety of reasons, Barnette was re-signed by the Swallows on Jan. 12, 2011, for a second shot. The contract included a club option for 2012, which the Swallows picked up. The one-year extension is worth 58 million yen ($718,330 dollars).
In 2011, Barnette made the move into the Swallows' bullpen and had an impressive year. He turned into one of the best set-up relievers in the league, notching 22 holds and two saves and had a solid 2.68 ERA in 48 games. He allowed only 43 hits in 47 innings pitched and struck out 54.
After graduating from TJ in 2002, Barnette moved on to pitch at Central Arizona Community College before a two-year stint at Arizona State, where he pitched at the 2005 College World Series.
The Swallows put Barnette and his wife, Hillary in a two-bedroom apartment in the Tokyo's bustling Shinjuku district.