Garrett completes perfect spring, though Reds planning closer-by-committee approach

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Amir Garrett interview (March 28, 2021)

Reliever strikes out 10 of the 12 batters he faced in four appearances

No one pitched better for the Cincinnati Reds this spring than reliever Amir Garrett. He was limited to four appearances because of a left forearm issue but made the most of his time on the mound, striking out 10 of the 12 batters he faced.

Garrett struck out nine batters in a row in his first three games. That streak ended when he gave up a lead-off groundout in the bottom of the third Sunday against the Milwaukee Brewers in the Reds’ second-to-last Cactus League game.

“I tried to get three more today,” Garrett said. “I’m not going to lie to you. But I’m ready to go. I can’t wait until April 1. I’m just excited to get to the real games now.”

The Reds open the 2021 season at 4:10 p.m. Thursday against the St. Louis Cardinals at Great American Ball Park. The Reds have won on Opening Day the last two seasons but followed a 5-3 victory against the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2019 with six straight losses and lost four straight games after a 7-1 victory against the Detroit Tigers in 2020.

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Although the Reds have the worst winning percentage of any team this spring (7-19, .269), Garrett feels good about the team’s chances.

“Like I say every year, we’re capable of being the best team in MLB,” Garrett said, “and I firmly believe that. Hopefully, this year we can start off quick, not slow. We’ve got to get some wins under our belt early so we don’t have to make up for it at the end like we did last year. We’re in a good headspace right now as a team. We’re in a good spot.”

Garrett didn’t make an appearance this spring until March 20 but made up ground fast. He said he can pitch on back-to-back days if needed. He’s still working on his stamina but said adrenaline will take over when he gets in the game.

This was the best Garrett has pitched in the spring. Last year, he had a 1.80 ERA in five appearances. Two years ago, he had a 6.23 ERA in eight appearances.

“I was coming here fighting for a job,” Garrett said. “I mean I fight for job every single year. That’s my mindset. But I was coming here fighting for the closer spot, and it just gave me that much more motivation. I wanted to prove a lot of people wrong. A lot of people say I can’t be a closer. I know I can. That’s what I want to prove. I can be closer. So I came in here a little bit more motivated this year, and I feel like I did what I had to do.”

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The Reds plan to start the season with a closer-by-committee approach. Pitching coach Derek Johnson said the coaches look at Garrett, Lucas Sims and Sean Doolittle as closers.

“It’s about getting those last three outs in the ninth inning, and we would want to put ourselves in the very best spot to do that,” Johnson said. “I think as long as our guys are OK with that and sharing that role, then life is good. I think when you start getting too conventional and thinking that there’s only one guy to do this job, it’s probably where your team falls apart a little bit. We have to do a good job of keeping those guys informed No. 1, and then No. 2 helping them understand that it could be Lucas one night, it could be Amir one night, it could Doolittle one night.

“It’s just going to depend on a lot of different things, but the other factor with that is at least in the beginning, we do have two guys, Lucas and Amir, who haven’t been built up properly from spring training because they’ve been injured. If you look at it that way, it just makes sense to take care of them on one end and on the other end put ourselves in the best spot we can to win the game.”

Garrett said he’s fine with that approach.

“I don’t care where I pitch,” Garrett said. “I want to be the closer, but seven, eight, wherever they need me at, it’s no big thing. I kind of put my mind to that — that that’s what was going to happen. Regardless of the results, it was gonna be closer by committee. But, it’s all good. Got to get to it. Whoever gets the ninth, they’ve got to lock it down and get three outs.”

OPENING DAY

Thursday, April 1

Cardinals at Reds, 4:10 p.m., FS Ohio, 700

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