SAN DIEGO -- After one of his worst outings of the season on June 1, Reds left-handed reliever Amir Garrett had a full week off from pitching. Garrett’s performances have been noticeably better this month, but he hasn’t made a series of adjustments, mechanical tweaks or grip changes.
“Same stuff,” Garrett said Thursday on the field before the game at Petco Park. “You always have to stay the course. You can never outrun adversity. You have to face it head-on. You’ll have bad games, you’ll have good games -- good stretches and bad stretches. You just have to take it all in stride and keep working. That’s it.”
Alas, a few hours later, Garrett found adversity once more in a tough 6-4 Reds loss to the Padres. After Cincinnati took a two-run lead in the top of the ninth inning, rookie Ryan Hendrix and Garrett gave it up in stunning fashion in the bottom half.
Hendrix yielded a leadoff walk and two-run homer to Eric Hosmer. Garrett faced two batters without retiring either. Jake Cronenworth hit a single to center field before Victor Caratini ended it with a walk-off homer to left field.
“I thought [Garrett] executed the pitch, and, obviously, [Caratini] got up under it enough and elevated it just enough to be out,” Reds catcher Tyler Stephenson said.
Garrett, who relies primarily on his slider, entered Thursday having not allowed a run in each of his last four appearances, with one hit, one walk, five strikeouts and one save over 2 1/3 innings.
It appeared to be a small step to regaining the form that made Garrett one of the club’s best relievers in the 2019 and ’20 seasons. In 25 games this season, he still has a 9.31 ERA with a 1.76 WHIP.
Garrett had a 14.21 ERA over his first eight appearances of the season before he found a groove with seven consecutive scoreless outings from April 28-May 21 -- while he retired 20 of 24 batters faced. A string of rough outings followed, culminating with the June 1 game. Garrett gave up four runs and four hits, including two homers, vs. the Phillies in a 17-3 loss.
“Nothing is ever perfectly set in stone, and I’ve been working really hard in the bullpen,” Garrett said. “Some days, I will have it. Some days, I don’t. As long I’m still working on the things I need to work on and locating my pitches, at the end of the day, I will be fine.”
Although Statcast shows Garrett remains one of the harder-hit pitchers in the league, the whiff percentage on his pitches is in the 93rd percentile. Hitters swing and miss on his slider 56.3% of the time.
Garrett said he has been talking to pitching coach Derek Johnson about being used more often going forward. Under manager David Bell, relievers have not had defined roles, so the situations relievers get used is often dependent on matchups rather than a specific inning.
“I’m used to being used and throwing a lot. The last couple of years, I’ve been one of the most used relievers,” said Garrett, who pitched a career-high 69 games in 2019. “I feel like when I’m pitching more, it makes me feel better. When you get a long layoff for a few days, you’re not the same. You become accustomed to a certain way of pitching, and I pitch a lot. I feel good when I throw a lot.”