Garrett motivated to crack big league rotation

Former hoops star has worked his way to No. 2 prospect in Reds organization

Garrett motivated to crack big league rotation

CINCINNATI -- Reds left-handed pitching prospect Amir Garrett didn't mince words when asked about the opening in the big league rotation this spring.

"I'm coming," Garrett said. "They're not going to give it to me, so I'm going to come and take it. That's how it's been my whole career playing baseball. I will have to go in there and show what I've got. And I'm not going to lie down. All of the people competing for the last spot, it will just up the competition level. It will help everybody rise to the top. It will make everyone else better."

The Reds' No. 2 prospect and No. 45 overall, according to MLBPipeline.com, Garrett will be joining other highly coveted Reds pitching prospects at Spring Training to compete for the rotation -- including lefty Cody Reed and right-hander Robert Stephenson. The club is also scanning the free-agent market to add to the depth.

Garrett, 24, began last season at Double-A Pensacola and he was 5-3 with a 1.75 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP in 13 games (12 starts) over 77 innings. After moving up to Triple-A Louisville, he went 2-5 with a 3.46 ERA and 1.17 WHIP in 12 games (11 starts) and 67 2/3 innings. He also appeared in the MLB All-Star Futures Game for the second straight year.

Garrett talks Futures Game

"I felt I did pretty well," Garrett said. "I dominated Double-A and that was a big confidence boost. I went to Triple-A and I held my own. I had a couple of struggles, but nothing I couldn't overcome."

Garrett believes the half-season at Triple-A was enough preparation.

"I feel like that's all I needed," Garrett said. "I don't feel like I need more than that but it's up to them what they want to do. I was able to hold my own and compete at a high level there. I'm ready to take the next step."

It's no coincidence that the 6-foot-5, 230-pound Garrett's baseball career catapulted once he gave up also playing college basketball at St. John's University in 2014. Able to throw up to 96 mph, he was a 22nd round Draft pick by the Reds in 2011 despite not having a lot of baseball experience.

"I love basketball but focusing on one sport helps so much," Garrett said. "My mind was so clouded thinking about basketball and thinking about baseball."

If the Reds treat Garrett similarly to Reed and Stephenson, he might have to wait. Stephenson made two big league spot starts early last season and he didn't return until September. Reed remained in Louisville until June, delaying his arbitration status and potential free agency for an extra year.

"I think Amir Garrett has checked off everything on his list," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "That's what we felt strongly about with Reed when he started in Triple-A. He went out and was better than the league. He checked off that Triple-A criteria. Is he better than the league in Triple-A? Yes. However, I would love to see Reed and Stephenson just show up and look like Major Leaguers.

"I'm looking forward to Amir coming in there and showing confidence on the mound and getting a much larger opportunity in big league camp than he's ever gotten before."

Reed did not fare well once in the Majors, going 0-7 with a 7.36 ERA in 10 starts. Stephenson's spot starts were solid, but he struggled in September.

Whoever loses the battle for the rotation could still be in the big leagues as a bullpen piece. But Garrett is less likely to be used as a reliever.

"Amir should be in our rotation because he's earned it, and I think that will be his first crack," Price said. "[But] I do not shy away from young prospects pitching out of a Major League bullpen to get their feet wet. I don't see Amir as that guy as much as I might see Reed or Stephenson if they don't win the fifth spot, but it wouldn't be unheard of. I think it would be less likely than the other two."

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.