CINCINNATI -- Reds left-handed reliever Amir Garrett was already an admitted homebody when at his house in Las Vegas, even before most of the country was forced to stay inside because of the coronavirus pandemic.
But Garrett is still doing all he can to stay in shape -- and stay in touch. That included a text to teammates last week.
“’Hey boys, stay ready so we don't have to get ready when the time comes,’” Garrett said of the message he sent.
To that end, he is doing his part to stay baseball-ready while staying safe.
“In these types of situations, you have to adapt,” he said. “My backyard, it's about 70 to 75 feet wall to wall, so it's not that big back here. I do have a little mat that I throw at, it has a hitter. I have a neighbor that played baseball in college, he's one of our close friends. He comes and plays catch with me in the middle of the street, or we play in the grass part across from the house.
“We work out at home, me and my fiancée. We have stuff here that we're able to use. We're just trying to adapt to what we've got. It's definitely tough trying to get your full routine in, but we make it work.”
Garrett, who turns 28 on May 3, came to organized baseball later than many since he was a basketball star in high school and also played basketball for St. John’s before the Reds took him in the 22nd round of the 2011 MLB Draft. Initially, he played both baseball and basketball.
It didn’t take long for Garrett to drop basketball and focus on his baseball career. The game got into his blood, and he’s missed it during the forced layoff.
“We take a lot of stuff for granted in life as human beings, and this is something I've definitely learned from,” he said. “Not being able to play the sport I love has definitely opened my eyes. Sometimes I do take this game for granted.
“Hopefully, we get things up and running again. That last rep, that last sprint, I'm not always the type of guy who wants to do that, go the extra mile and do the extra stuff. Now I think that's all going to change, from now on. It shows that the game can be taken away that fast. Hopefully, I don't take this for granted again once we start up again.”
Garrett had strong first-half performances in each of the past two seasons, and a shortened 2020 season could make him even more formidable.
Over 42 games before the All-Star break in 2019, Garrett had a 1.70 ERA, a 1.22 WHIP and a 13:1 strikeouts-per-nine innings ratio. He ran out of gas, however, in the second half. In 27 games after the break, Garrett posted a 6.16 ERA, a 1.79 WHIP and 11:4 strikeouts-per-nine.
The dropoff underscored Garrett’s desire to improve his offseason preparation, and also to monitor how much rest and sleep he gets during the season so he can handle the rigors of being available almost daily. He believes adjusting to returning from the layoff will be better for relievers.
“It's definitely easier,” he said. “The mindset for me is always the same: Go out and do your job. I don't want to make excuses for anything ever in life. I'm not going to let something like this stop me. So when the time comes, I'll be ready and I'll be full go.”
Perhaps Garrett’s desire for baseball was underscored last Friday, when he played -- and won -- an “MLB The Show” videogame tournament against fellow big leaguers. He was the only participant to compete while wearing a full game uniform.
“I already had my jersey at the house. I wore my Players' Weekend pants -- the all white, no stripes,” he said. “[I had] the hat, my necklace on. I had everything -- game time. Well, no cleats though. No cleats in the house, I would have gotten in trouble.”