The Indians front office made a phone call to Perci Garner shortly after he was cut by the Phillies’ organization back in late March 2015. In mid-April, less than a month after, the right-hander was on his way to Goodyear, Arizona to make ends and logistics meet so he could play for his childhood favorite team.
Five months later, the Dover, OH native was making his Major League debut on August 31, 2016 for his new club, and it was dream come true for him.
Is this Real Life?
“When I first got up there (to Cleveland), I thought to myself, ‘Man, is this real?,’ you know," Garner recalled, "By the time I got into the game, I was pinching myself even though it wasn’t working. I can’t really describe it, but it was just a magical night. I really didn’t get nervous until about the third outing. Before that, it was more, ‘Oh, my! I’m here!’”
Perci Garner was once regarded as a highly touted starting pitching prospect coming out of Ball State University. So much so, that the Phillies spent a second round (77th overall) pick on him. After going 6-3 with a 4.69 ERA in his collegiate career, Garner reaped a 19-23 record with a 4.50 ERA in 87 career games in the Phillies organization.
Yes… It Is.
Fast forward to his debut in 2016, after nearly six and a half Minor League seasons, Garner turned dreams into a reality. He made eight appearances for the Tribe and allowed five earned runs in 9.1 innings pitched. Garner found some struggles but still found a humbling experience from playing under Terry Francona and Mickey Callaway’s direction.
“They definitely helped me with certain things I was weak in, like routines," the right-hander explained, "I’m still learning what’s best for me to be ready every night (to pitch). In the Minor Leagues, you get babied in a sense. But in the Bigs, it’s not like that."
Fans may have wondered about what happened to Garner to begin the 2017 season. A guy that made an impact for the club down the stretch of a pennant race and World Series run did not break camp with the parent club, but why was the rumor mill void of his name until this point?
Garner technically began the season on the disabled list with an undisclosed injury, and up until media and the rest of the public heard otherwise, that was the accepted conclusion. It was later learned that Garner stayed back in Arizona for extended Spring Training to work on his stuff.
“It was really hard." Garner admitted, "The front office definitely expressed their feelings on the situation, and they were like, 'We think this is best for you.’ Me being impatient, I probably should have taken a week or two off in the spring, but I wanted to throw. It was the right decision, and I’m glad I made it now, but at the time, it was pretty upsetting.”
Now that he’s back in business and seeing live action, Garner is chomping at the bit to return to Cleveland again.
“Me, being an Indians fan growing up, and being engaged in the ’95 and ’97 era, this is my hometown team, we were in a pennant race, and these guys called me up (last year)." said the 28-year-old, "I tried to soak it all in. My focus is to win a championship with the Indians.”
Garner is not at his top form quite yet, but his sinker still has movement and his signature pitch has retained velocity. The issue has been about location and mix, and that is why he spent extra time in Spring Training to begin 2017. The right-hander could see his way back to Cleveland in 2017, which could provide a spark to the best bullpen in baseball entering the dog days of summer. With that being said, the organization is also not in any rush to get Garner back to Cleveland.
Perci Garner has faced a great deal of adversity since his high drafting in 2010, but now that the pressure of being a top prospect has been alleviated, he can focus on pitching and getting back to form. When a given prospect spends more than six years throughout the Minor Leagues, questions rise on his legitimacy. In Garner’s case, he’s worked through the struggles to earn a second chance with a new club, and so far he has paid off as a low-risk Minor League signing. Garner will be given every opportunity to return to form on his own time, and his revamped stuff can see Major League action again in 2017.
Corey Crisan is a columnist for the Cleveland Indians and the Mahoning Valley Scrappers on Indians Baseball Insider on Scout.com. You can listen to him on IBI’s Farm Report Podcast and follow him on Twitter and Instagram @cdcrisan.