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Garrett learns from struggles of past season

At Reds Caravan, lefty says he's stronger, ready to turn page
MLB.com @m_sheldon

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The statistics can't be changed from Reds lefty pitcher Amir Garrett's rookie season. The good and bad are locked in. Although Garrett's first few starts were sensational, he finished 3-8 with a 7.39 ERA and 1.61 WHIP in 16 games, including 14 starts.

Forget 2017, as far as Garrett is concerned.

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The statistics can't be changed from Reds lefty pitcher Amir Garrett's rookie season. The good and bad are locked in. Although Garrett's first few starts were sensational, he finished 3-8 with a 7.39 ERA and 1.61 WHIP in 16 games, including 14 starts.

Forget 2017, as far as Garrett is concerned.

"I'm actually glad I had the year I had last year," Garrett said Thursday night during a Reds Caravan stop in Columbus. "Coming up through the Minor Leagues, it had always been a breeze for me. I was better than everybody. I never really had any struggles and adversity. Everything happens for a reason. I'm happy that happened to me.

"I will re-establish myself again and basically start over from the beginning in spring. It's a clean slate, 2018. Two-thousand-seventeen is behind me. I have a book and that page isn't even in there."

Garrett, who will turn 26 on May 3, will be competing for a rotation spot at Spring Training. Following last season, he had a procedure to fix a problematic right hip injury. Inflammation in the hip forced him to the disabled list from May 25-June 3.

Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) and stem-cell injections were administered to correct the issue, and Garrett had successful rehabilitation.

"It helped a lot. I feel a lot stronger and stuff now. The good thing about that was I didn't have to miss any time," Garrett said. "I just needed to get healthy all the way, that's it. I've been working on my body, and I'm down 10 pounds now. I feel like I'm back to my old self."

Garrett earned a spot in the rotation out of camp last year and dazzled with a 1.83 ERA and three quality starts in his first three games. That included a 12-strikeout performance in a 2-0 loss to the Orioles on April 19.

Following six starts, including five quality outings, Garrett was optioned to Triple-A Louisville on May 7. It became a source of controversy, especially when Garrett struggled upon returning. In six starts from May 18-June 20, he was 0-4 with a 12.49 ERA. He was optioned back to Louisville for the rest of their season before returning to the Reds as a September callup.

Through May 6

According to Statcast™, Garrett gave up more damaging contact after he came back as his fastball was more hittable. It was reflected by the expected wOBA and barrel-rate numbers. His expected wOBA was .322 (based on walks, strikeouts and quality of contact allowed -- the MLB average wOBA was .327). His barrels-per-batted-ball rate was 3.9 percent (four barrels on 104 batted balls).

After May 6, the expected wOBA was .397, and the barrels-per-batted-ball rate: 10.7 percent (12 barrels on 112 batted balls).

After May 6

Some believed the Reds were trying to clip Garrett's service time to stall his clock toward arbitration and free agency, and thus interrupted his groove.

Sure enough, the first question from fans during a Q&A at the Caravan stop was to general manager Dick Williams about that very issue. Williams contended there were numerous other issues at play. That included not needing a fifth starter the week when Garrett was sent down.

"We wanted to use the roster spot for somebody else," Williams told MLB.com after the fan session. "With Amir, we've always been careful because he has had a hip condition. It was cleaned up after the season, but he's always had issues there. The last thing was we didn't think he was going to be in the big league rotation [out of camp]. Here he is and having a really good April and we're like, 'We might have him up in the rotation all year. We better manage his innings, so let's skip him every now and then as opposed to getting to August and September and having to shut him down.'"

Garrett doesn't believe the demotion changed anything with his performance. He pointed out that his first start for Louisville was strong. He struck out all six batters he faced.

"That was something we discussed," Garrett said. "If that ruined me, then I was mentally weak. It was more of an injury thing. That's in the past now. I'm just ready for 2018."

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