Reds: Path to the big leagues open for Garrett

Reds pitcher Amir Garrett is interviewed Tuesday at the spring training complex in Goodyear, Arizona. MIKE HARTSOCK / WHIO TV
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Reds pitcher Amir Garrett is interviewed Tuesday at the spring training complex in Goodyear, Arizona. MIKE HARTSOCK / WHIO TV

It wasn’t that long ago Amir Garrett considered himself to be a basketball player who could play baseball, too. But something had to give in that interal competition because one game always seemed to be holding the other back.

The Reds drafted the 6-foot-5 left-handed pitcher in the 22nd round in 2011, but it wasn’t until after his second season with the Dayton Dragons in 2014 that he decided to get serious about the smaller ball.

“I’ve been playing since 2011 and I’ve come a long way,” Garrett admitted after the Reds’ first workout Tuesday morning. “To look back to where I was and where I am now I’m just grateful and ready to work my butt off and hopefully I’ll be a big leaguer soon.”

Garrett, who played college basketball at St. John’s, is one of a handful of young pitchers battling to open the season with the Reds. He comes off a solid season in 2016 when he began the year in double-A Pensacola and finished with the triple-A Louisville Bats.

“I was in double-A and triple-A last year and I felt like I could be in the majors,” Garrett said. “This is a big opportunity in front of me and I can finally say I’m actually competing for a spot so it’s a different mindset than the last couple of years out here.”

Garrett is rooming with Cody Reed, Sal Romano, and Robert Stephenson here. Those three just happen to be some of his biggest competition for a spot on the pitching staff.

“If I don’t win the spot I’m always going to be rooting for the next person,” Garrett said. “At the end of the day we’re all on the same team in the same organization and we all want to see each other do good.”

Garrett is quick to admit he was a thrower more than a pitcher during his two seasons with the Dragons. He was always ready to try and blow a 95-mph fastball by a hitter, but these days the game has slowed down for the lefty, and that may be his ticket to a big league job.

“I’ve been working on my change-up a lot — at the end of last season in triple-A I was throwing my change-up a lot more and I was seeing a big difference,” Garrett said. “I feel like that pitch will really bring my game to another level. I want to get that pitch down where I can throw it in any count and get hitters out.”

Garrett has pitched in the Major League Baseball “Futures” game the last two seasons, helping to emphasize he made the right choice, even though the road to the big leagues is full of potholes.

“You’ve got to always have that confidence no matter where you’re at,” he said. “I always tell myself I can be a big leaguer and I can play up there because I will never put any limitations on myself.”

As for basketball, Garrett won’t deny he still wonders what might have been had he gone the other way and pursued those hoop dreams. But he doesn’t hesitate to point out he has no regrets .

“It’s all fun and games now, I get to watch basketball as a fan and not a player,” Garrett said. There are times that I’m like… dang… but I can’t go back. That was a moment in my life that I enjoyed, but now I’m a full-time baseball player and I enjoy that even more.”

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