Garrett eyeing spot in Reds’ rotation

Published 1:31 am Monday, February 20, 2017

Jim Walker

When Amir Garrett downsized from a basketball to a baseball, his baseball career began to grow.
The 6-foot-5, 228-pound Garrett played forward for the St. John’s Red Storm basketball team and also pitched for the baseball program.
Boasting a 96-mile an hour fastball, the left-handed Garrett was drafted in the 22nd round in 2011 by the Cincinnati Reds and given a $1 million bonus to sign a contract.
At the time Garrett made his decision four years ago to make baseball his full-time focus, he was a junior and playing 20 minutes a game. Over 11 games, Garrett was averaging 5.4 points and 4.3 rebounds.
“When I gave up basketball I was kind of nervous because I really didn’t know about what was ahead of me at all,” said Garrett. “Now that I was stuck in one sport I thought, ‘man, what did I just do?’
“But as I started having success I was like, ‘I can really do this.’ All my focus was in baseball. I’m just going to do what I’ve got to do to get better. That’s when my confidence came in. Once that happened everything else just clicked. You know what? I’m going to be a big league some day.”
One of 11 children that includes seven brothers and three sisters, Garrett has been in the organization just four years and he split time between Class AA Pensacola and Class AAA Louisville last season.
At Pensacola he was 5-3 with a 1.75 earned run average in 13 games. He struck out 78, walked 28 and gave up 51 hits in 77 innings.
He pitched in12 games at Louisville and was 2-5 with 54 strikeouts, 31 walks and 48 hits over 67.2 innings.
“I learned a lot about myself in Louisville,” said Garrett.
“To play Triple-A last year and me being so raw and the players there are so disciplined, as a pitcher they helped me stay around the zone a lot.
“There are guys up there so disciplined they aren’t going to swing at anything way out of the zone. It helped me pound the zone a lot and it helped me become a better team player as well and mature in my game.”
The ups and downs at Louisville actually became a learning tool for Garrett.
“Sometimes I would be upset if a bad play was made or I didn’t make a good pitch. Those guys are veterans up there and they showed me you have to relax. The guys are older and being around them I learned a lot. The season turned out pretty good and I enjoyed it,” said Garrett.
As part of the Reds’ 40-man roster, Garrett will be in spring training and competing for a spot in the starting rotation.
Anthony DeSclafani, Brandon Finnegan, Homer Bailey and Tim Adelman are expected to take four jobs. The other spot is expected to be between Robert Stephenson, Cody Reed, Scott Feldman, Bronson Arroyo and Garrett.
With Bailey on the 60-day disabled list, there could be another spot open in the rotation at least on a temporary basis.
“They’re saying the fifth spot is wide open. I know nothing is going to be handed to me, but it’s like my whole career nothing has been handed to me. I had to go take it,” said Garrett.
“So I’m coming in there looking to get that fifth spot. I’m looking at it as if it is mine. I’m going to do everything I can to get that fifth spot and I’m going to be competitive. I’m going to be working hard. My mouth is getting watery. I want it.”
Besides working hard and sporting confidence, Garrett said that one big key to making the team and earning a spot in the rotation will hinge on his mental focus.
“I’ve got to be more mentally locked in, take it a pitch at a time, forget about the last pitch or the last at-bat,” said Garrett. “Sometimes I tend to dwell on what happened the last at-bat or last pitch. That’s out the door. You’ve got to go on to the next batter.”
Although the Reds were 68-94 last season and last in the National League Central Division, Garrett is happy to be in the Reds’ organization and he’s excited about the talent at the major league and minor league levels.
“We’ve got players coming up. We’ve got players now. We’ve just got to put it all together,” said Garrett.

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