Braxton Garrett’s 2021 season ended on as sour a note as he could have possibly imagined. His three-inning outing against the Atlanta Braves was the “worst outing in my baseball career,” the starting pitcher said Sunday, and sent him into the offseason searching for some kind of reinvention.
A little less than a year later, Garrett is transformed and one of the few bright spots for the Miami Marlins as their once-competitive season has spiraled out of control.
“I was a completely different pitcher last year,” Garrett said. “I don’t even compare myself.”
In his first meeting with the Braves since his final start of 2021, Garrett put together maybe of the best start of his carer Sunday at loanDepot park, tossing six scoreless innings against the reigning World Series champions despite walking more batters than he struck out.
It was the sign of a maturing pitcher, Garret believes, and it comes at the perfect time. Although the rookie doesn’t consider the final month-plus of this season to be strictly an opportunity or audition, it is, for all intents and purposes.
The Marlins have fallen out of contention for the 2022 MLB postseason with 10 losses in 13 games to start August and a potentially pivotal offseason is suddenly fast approaching. Beyond Sandy Alcantara, there’s no guaranteeing what the rest of the Marlins’ 2023 rotation might look like, especially after fellow starting pitcher Pablo Lopez was in the middle of trade rumors earlier this month. The rest of the starting rotation is filled with pitchers a lot like Garrett — young and talented, but unproven and still inconsistent — and the 25-year-old left-handed pitcher will get a chance to try to separate himself down the stretch.
“I don’t necessarily think that far ahead right now,” said Garrett, who was the No. 7 overall pick in the 2016 MLB draft and is a former top-100 prospect. “I always feel my back’s against the wall. It’s just how I’ve been my whole career.”
An outing like Garrett’s latest, manager Don Mattingly said Sunday, wouldn’t have been possible last season or the year before, when the lefty got his first two tastes of the Majors. In 2019, Garrett pretty much just stuck to his fastball and curveball, throwing each more than 30 percent of the time. Last year, it was mostly fastball and slider for Garrett, who didn’t use any of his other five pitches more than 18 percent of the time.
Now, Garrett is using three of his pitches — his slider, fastball and sinker, in order — at least 20 percent of the time, while also mixing in his curveball and changeup. As Garrett touts himself as an all-new pitcher, the deeper pitch mix is the most significant change, with his sinker usage — jumping from 15.6 percent last season to 21.1 this year — making the biggest difference by letting him survive without strikeouts.
On Sunday, Garrett allowed eight balls in play off his sinker and seven of them resulted in outs.
“It just kept getting me out of big at-bats,” the starter said.
Reliever Anthony Bender gets MRI
Miami is still awaiting clarity on the severity of Anthony Bender’s right elbow strain after he landed on the 10-day injured list Sunday. The relief pitcher got an MRI on the arm, but the Marlins is still waiting on results.
Bender’s injury only adds to a long list of banged up pitchers for Miami. Pitcher Jordan Holloway won’t be able to throw for six weeks after having arthroscopic surgery last week and relief pitcher Cody Poteet is scheduled to get Tommy John surgery Wednesday in Arlington, Texas.
There is, however, some progress on starting pitchers Trevor Rogers and Sixto Sanchez: Rogers pitched Wednesday for Double A Pensacola on Sunday and will make his next rehabilitation appearance for Triple A Jacksonville, while Sanchez is scheduled to pitch a pair of simulated games Wednesday and Saturday in Jupiter. Relief pitcher Cole Sulser also joined the Marlins in Miami on Sunday and could be activated Tuesday.
Starting pitcher Daniel Castano continues to progress with baseball activities in Jupiter, although he’s not yet throwing.
As for the injured hitters, star middle infielder Jazz Chisholm Jr. and outfielder Jorge Soler are not yet participating in baseball activities, and outfielder Avisail Garcia is progressing in his running program.
Starting pitcher Edward Cabrera will put his 10 2/3-inning scoreless streak on the line against the San Diego Padres at 6:40 p.m. on Tuesday in South Florida. The rookie’s ERA is down to 2.05.
Starting pitcher Sean Manaea will be on the mound for the Padres.