McCoy: Garrett wants Reds to be known as ‘cockiest team ever’

Reliever says players are feeding off hot start, energy of Nick Castellanos

When he isn’t on the pitching mound for the Cincinnati Reds, he is mild-mannered, fun-loving, always-smiling Amir Garrett.

By his own admission, Garrett says he has a split personality and the guy on the mound is A.G., “And I don’t know what he might do.”

What he might do — no, what he did do in 2019 — is sprint off the mound to the front of the Pittsburgh Pirates dugout and challenge each and every one of them to come out for a bit of fistic discussions.

And at an imposing 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, Garrett strikes fear whether the opposition is in the batter’s box or is hiding behind the Gatorade cooler in the dugout.

It is one of the many reasons why Garrett admires the feistiness and the showmanship of Nick Castellanos, the bat flips and the screams and shouts when he hits a home run. As far as Garrett can see, Castellanos also has a split personality. . .maybe he is N.C. on the field.

“Listen, the swagger Nick has. . .and he doesn’t even do it on purpose,” said Garrett. “In the locker room Nick is very chill. When he does something on the field, he doesn’t even know it. When he is out there he asks, ‘Did I do that? Was that show?’

“I tell him, ‘That was show, that was really show,” Garrett said.”It’s like he didn’t mean to do that because when you see him in the locker room he is always chillin,’ listenin’ to some soft music, walkin’ in all slow and stuff. He is very laid back.”

That is until you put a bat in his hands and he propels those three home runs he hit in the first four games and his alter ego escapes his body like a hissing manhole cover.

“But the energy he is bringing is a domino effect,” said Garrett. “Everybody is feeding into it. I want everybody to think that the Cincinnati Reds is the cockiest team ever, that we’re some bat-flipping, showboatin’ son-of-a-guns. I want everybody to know that.”

Garrett wants everybody to know that he wants to be the Reds’ closer. He got a quick sample taste late last year when he recorded his one and only save.

When closer Raisel Iglesias was traded after last season, Garrett said, “The job is mine. I’m going to be the closer.” To solidify it, Garrett struck out 11 of the 12 batters he faced in spring training.

But during the three-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals, Garrett fidgeted in the bullpen. No calls, no work. There were no save opportunities.

“I hadn’t pitched in about eight days,” he said. “I was seeing everybody going out there (from the bullpen) and I was like a wild animal out there. It was, ‘Let me out of here, let me out of here.’”

The time arrived Monday night against the Pirates in Game 4 of the season. It was an easy save situation, a 5-2 lead.

Then the first guy he faced, Bryan Reynolds hit a home run. Then Colin Moran singled. Trouble? Garrett retired Gregory Polanco, issued a walk, then buckled it up by retiring pinch-hitter Kevin Newman on a game-ending double play.

“After the home run, I said to myself, ‘Now we go. Let’s go, baby, let’s do it,’” said Garrett. “After that it was time to shut it down. I gave ‘em a little sense of hope, like giving candy to a baby and taking it back. I gave ‘em a split thought that they could win the game there.”

Until now, Garrett has been mostly as middle guy and a set-up guy, where he didn’t feel as if he was pitching inside a pressure cooker.

“It is definitely a different feeling,” he said of the closer’s occupation. “I think I was a little hyped. Actually I was really hyped, being back in front of fans. I was kinda a little nervous out there.

“Now we’re good,” he said. “Got that first out of the way. And I’m good to go now. Yes, I want to be the closer. I want the pressure. I want all the eyes on me in the ninth inning. I want to be the guy to solidify a win for us.”

There are some new faces in the Reds bullpen this year — Cionel Perez, Sean Doolittle, Carson Fulmer, Cam Bedrosian.

Talking about Cionel Perez, Garrett said, “He’s unreal. He is really good. He hits 99 (miles an hour) with a hammer (curveball) and just a crazy change-up. He is very special. And for him not being that big of a guy he throws cheddar balls and I’m like, ‘How do you do that’”

Relief pitcher TeJay Antone said the bullpen’s mantra is, “Want the ball.” Garrett says there is more.

“We got some dogs out there, man. Every guy in the bullpen wants the ball at an important time,” he said. “Even if we’re blowing a team out, everybody wants the ball.

“One of our biggest things is tickets (strikeouts), too,” he added. “We want strikeouts, that’s what we want. Nothing else but strikeouts, that’s it. Want the ball and want strikeouts.

As Garrett talked to the media on Zoom before Tuesday’s game he was wearing a Mike Moustaksas headband. Why?

“I’m out here swaggin’ Moose,” he said. “Moose hit a ball to the airport (a long home run) Monday. “That ball was tatered, so I have to give my boy some love.”

About the Author