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Garrett a 'standout' in dominant first outing

Lefty threw two perfect innings, struck out four vs. White Sox on Sunday
MLB.com @m_sheldon

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The superlatives flowed from Reds manager Bryan Price on Monday morning about pitcher Amir Garrett. On the previous afternoon, Price watched Garrett finish the final two innings of an 8-5 split-squad loss to the White Sox. He retired all six batters with four strikeouts.

Unprompted, Price brought up Garrett's performance.

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The superlatives flowed from Reds manager Bryan Price on Monday morning about pitcher Amir Garrett. On the previous afternoon, Price watched Garrett finish the final two innings of an 8-5 split-squad loss to the White Sox. He retired all six batters with four strikeouts.

Unprompted, Price brought up Garrett's performance.

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"Amir was as good as I've ever seen him," Price said. "He had velocity with command and threw the slider and changeup for strikes. He was filthy. That's the type of performance you want to see from a guy that's coming off of a tough season. He came out, he was snorting fire and attacked the zone.

"It was one of those dare-to-be-noticed moments, because he was a standout yesterday -- an absolute standout."

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As camp opened two weeks ago and Price handicapped the rotation battle, Garrett appeared to not have an inside track for the open fifth starter's job. Sal Romano and Robert Stephenson were the favorites, with Tyler Mahle and Michael Lorenzen just behind them. Then, Garrett was mentioned.

Garrett, 25, wants to change that.

"I am out here to prove a lot," Garrett said. "Yesterday to me was a statement. I stated my case that I should be one of the front-runners for the fifth [rotation] spot or wherever it is on the roster. I should never be left out, no matter what."

Garrett pitched his way onto the 25-man roster last spring as a starter, so it could definitely happen again. Price noted that a bullpen role was also possible for a starter who doesn't make the rotation -- such as Garrett or Jackson Stephens.

Last season as a rookie, Garrett went 3-8 with a 7.39 ERA and a 1.61 WHIP in 16 games, including 14 starts. He had a 1.83 ERA over his first three starts before his season went awry.

The Reds didn't need a fifth starter for a couple weeks, so they sent Garrett back to Triple-A Louisville on May 7. In six starts after his May 18 return, he was 0-4 with a 12.49 ERA. Garrett was optioned to Louisville on June 23, and returned again to the big leagues as a September callup.

Mixed into the struggles was a bout of right hip inflammation that put Garrett on the disabled list from May 25-June 3. The issue lingered for the rest of the year. After the season, Garrett had platelet-rich plasma (PRP) and stem cell injections and successful rehabilitation to fix his hip.

"I had a great offseason," Garrett said. "I watched a lot of video on how I handled myself through ups and downs. ... When you go through struggles, you find out a lot about yourself. I felt like I'm back and no matter what I go through I'm still going to have that confidence. That's never going to leave me ever again."

Usually, Garrett will use his spikes to write a giant letter "A" at the front of the mound before each start as a way to establish confidence that it's his mound and his game.

"Sometimes, I would forget [to write the 'A' in front of the mound]. That's when I knew was out of it," Garrett said. "That's not me."

Garrett admitted his pitching struggles made him uncharacteristically timid. Not anymore.

"The real Amir, the Amir that they were excited about the past [few] years is back now," Garrett said. "There's no going back to 2017 now. I'm moving forward."

The confidence is back, and the hip problem is gone.

"I don't have to go out there and worry about, 'If I land on this foot, is it going to hurt?'" Garrett said. "I just go out there and throw the ball like I did yesterday."

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.

Cincinnati Reds, Amir Garrett