Rookie Amir Garrett is making quite an impression on young and old. And he looks to the old dog in the Reds rotation, who says, “take care of your body and play until they rip the jersey off your back.”
CINCINNATI — Amir Garrett sees himself as Bronson Arroyo in about 16 years.
Catcher Tucker Barnhart sees Garrett as that street smart playground basketball player who can’t shoot but latches on defensively and never lets go.
Garrett, 24, is just beginning his major league career and is off to an astonishing start — 2-and-1 with a 1.42 earned run average in his first three starts. And his loss might have been his best, a 2-0 turnback by the Baltimore Orioles during which Garrett struck out 12 in seven innings.
Arroyo, 40, probably should be relaxing every day in Florida with a fishing rod and a margarita instead of pitching in the Cincinnati Reds rotation.
But comparatively speaking, the 24-year-old kid and the 40-year-old veteran have the same bodies — long, slim and fat-free. And Garrett savors the advice Arroyo gave him.
“He told me, ‘Take c are of your body,’ that’s it,” said Garrett. “Like he told me, ‘I’m not going to stop playing this game until my arm gives out or they rip the jersey off my back.’
“He is 40 years old and still playing the game he loves, still in the major leagues” Garrett said of Arroyo. “A lot of guys aspire to be like Bronson, to be that age and still be able to compete at a high level. I only hope that I’ll be able to play that long. Whatever he is doing, I want to be part of it. He is eating his Wheaties, man.”
While pitching his three major league games and throwing 12 scoreless innings to start his career. Garrett stood on the mound as if that little hill is his personal property and he dares anybody to set foot on it. His motto could be,
‘Don’t tread on my mound.’
And that’s why before every inning he walks to the back of the mound and draws a huge ‘A’ in the dirt. That’s ‘A’ as in Amir.
“That’s something I’ve always done since I began pitching,” he said. “I look at it as if, ‘That’s my mound, that’s my domain. That’s my home right there.’ I do it every game, every inning, carve that ‘A’ in there.
“I’ve done it for as long as I can remember, drew it in there and it stayed with me,” he added. Somebody said it might also mean that Garrett is bringing his A-game into every start. He laughed and said, “I hope so. Sometimes I don’t bring my A-game but the A will still be there.”
Not only does Garrett protect the mound like a junkyard dog, or like his pit bull Dozer (“His name is Dozer because he is like a bulldozer,” said Garrett), he acts as if he has been around as long as Arroyo. He is cool, he is calm, he is non-plussed.
“I just look at it like I belong here,” he said. “I expand my brain to a lot more than just baseball. If keeping my composure is all I have to do, just go out there and play baseball — hey, there are a lot bigger problems in the world than if I give up a hit or a run. I just look at it like I’m blessed. I take everything with a grain of salt, good or bad, and be the same way every time.”
Now there is a young man with his feet firmly planted and his head on as straight as an Arizona highway through the desert.
Tucker Barnhart peeks from behind his mask at home plate and what he see when Garrett is looking in for a sign isn’t surprising.
“I see that pesky kid on the basketball court, that guy in pick-up games who won’t go away and sticks to you on defense no matter where you go. He just won’t go away,” said Barnhart.
It isn’t surprising that Barnhart sees that in Garrett because the 6-foo-5 lefthanded pitcher had to be coaxed off a college basketball floor to sign a contract to pitch for the Cincinnati Reds.
Now Garrett is 2-and-1 his first three major league starts and his loss was Wednesday night to the Baltimore Orioles by 2-0 during which he struck out 12 frustrated, cursing and cussing Birds.
“And he sort of looks like a basketball player on the mound — all arms and legs with a funky arm motion,” said Barnhart.
“Man, he is something. The main thing about him is that he not only acts as if he belongs out there, he knows he belongs. He doesn’t care what team we’re playing or who’s batting. He know what he is going to do and that’s get people out.”
Barnhart says Garrett pretty much throws what pitch Barnhart requests and listens intently in meetings and follows a game plan.
And then he walks to the mound, draws that ‘A’ on the mound like a kid in elementary school, dares somebody to wipe it away.
So far there have been few challengers.