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Garrett going through rookie growing pains

MLB.com

CINCINNATI -- Amir Garrett seemed like everything the Reds were looking for in a rookie pitcher early in the season. But over the last two and a half weeks, his trademark letter 'A' has been effaced from the mound far earlier than they would like.

Sunday marked Garrett's return to the rotation after a brief stint on the disabled list with right hip inflammation. It didn't go how he and the Reds hoped, as the left-hander allowed seven hits, nine runs (eight earned) and three home runs over 2 2/3 innings of work. Cincinnati dropped the game, 13-8, and the three-game series to Atlanta.

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CINCINNATI -- Amir Garrett seemed like everything the Reds were looking for in a rookie pitcher early in the season. But over the last two and a half weeks, his trademark letter 'A' has been effaced from the mound far earlier than they would like.

Sunday marked Garrett's return to the rotation after a brief stint on the disabled list with right hip inflammation. It didn't go how he and the Reds hoped, as the left-hander allowed seven hits, nine runs (eight earned) and three home runs over 2 2/3 innings of work. Cincinnati dropped the game, 13-8, and the three-game series to Atlanta.

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"I was horrible," Garrett said. "I just felt bad. I tried to go out there and do the best that I could coming back from an injury. I felt really good. I just can't keep putting my team in situations like that."

As it has at times this season, Garrett's fastball didn't fool opposing batters Saturday, which got him into trouble, considering he threw it twice as much as any other pitch. Six of the Braves' seven hits off Garrett came on his four-seamer, including all three home runs.

After getting ahead of Danny Santana in the top of the second, Garrett missed high on two straight fastballs. His next one was high as well, but Santana turned on it for a two-run homer that gave Atlanta a 4-3 lead.

In the next inning, Matt Adams hit a home run on a four-seamer over the middle. Five batters later, Ender Inciarte did the same -- this time a three-run shot -- to chase the Reds' starter.

Video: ATL@CIN: Inciarte's dinger keys big 3rd inning

"I thought he was just working too hard in that game," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "What I mean by that was just too much effort. He's got good stuff, he throws strikes. You're going to give up hits. You're going to give up runs. I just thought he was working too hard for his outs today."

Saturday's performance was a far cry from Garrett's success early in the year, when he had three quality starts in his first three big league outings and four in his first five.

Garrett was optioned to Triple-A Louisville in an attempt to limit his innings on May 7 -- one day after throwing seven innings of two-run ball against the Giants. The rookie hasn't been the same since.

In three starts since returning from the Minors -- including one hampered by the injured hip -- he has given up nine home runs and posted a 16.20 ERA (21 runs in 11 2/3 innings). According to Statcast™, opposing hitters had an average exit velocity of 89.7 mph off Garrett coming into Sunday -- the ninth-worst mark among Major League pitchers with at least 100 batted ball events.

"Of course I was a little upset, but it wasn't something that just popped up out of the blue," Garrett said. "We discussed and everything like that. But I think as a competitor in my situation, I'm gonna be a little bit upset, but I don't think that affected me at all, because no matter where you are you still have to do the job."

Garrett is still a rookie, and every rookie pitcher is going to go through periods of struggle. It was a rough outing, but Price and the Reds aren't writing the starter off completely.

"I think Tony La Russa said at one point in time, 'A player has to perform for a while before he's worthy of being talked about,'" Price said. "And Amir got off to a great start and he was worthy of being talked about and he still is. But what he has to do is he has to overcome the challenges of being a rookie pitcher, and that is to not try to do more than you're capable of doing."

Jeremy Vernon is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cincinnati.

Cincinnati Reds, Amir Garrett