Name: Steve Garrison
DOB: September 12, 1986
Garrison allowed one run or less in 10 of his 24 starts, tossing a no-hitter over seven innings during an April 12 win. The left-hander also allowed five runs or more four times, including his final game before succumbing to injury.
Garrison had his season cut short by a shoulder injury to his throwing arm. Surgery followed in October after rest and rehabilitation didn't produce positive results.
The surprising part is in relation to his clean mechanics. The Padres believed that if anyone could avoid a serious injury it would be Garrison.
His season ended with a 7-7 mark and 3.82 ERA, as he tossed 66.3 percent of his 2000 pitches on the season for strikes. He never threw more than 97 in a game and made it through six innings 10 times.
The New Jersey native sported a 2.55 strikeout-to-walk ratio and touted a solid .299 average on batted balls in play. Garrison also averaged 2.9 extra base hits yielded per nine innings of work and .9 homers per nine.
Few teams trotted out left-handed hitters against the southpaw.
"Everybody but Frisco was pretty much right-handed in our division," San Antonio pitching coach Steve Webber said. "But, he has the pitches to get both right-handers and left-handers out. He had 4 pitches: curveball, slider change, fastball – two-seam, four-seam. So, he matches up well with both sides."
"There's something about the lefty in this world that kind of messes guys up," former San Antonio manager Bill Masse said. "What Steve is very good at is that he has the ability to pitch in to right-handers. He's not afraid to come inside. This guy has pinpoint control, when he's on."
It is hard to determine which is more impressive – the .189 average he held left-handed batters to or the mere 74 at-bats registered by left-handed hitters (compared to 420 at-bats by righties). The competition gave him a healthy respect to get those lefty hitters out with regularity, and Garrison complied when given the chance.
Armed with a four-pitch repertoire, Garrison is a crafty pitcher who can throw each of his pitches for strikes in any count.
"Very simple, repeatable delivery, doesn't get too up, doesn't get too down," Padres pitching coordinator Mike Couchee said of what makes Garrison successful.
He throws a lot of first-pitch strikes to get himself ahead in the count and then begins to work in reverse, tossing off-speed pitches to keep hitters off-balance and working exclusively down in the zone.
"This guy throws one of the most impressive bullpens I've ever seen for a 21-year-old kid," Masse said. He'll throw 40 pitches in the bullpen and he may throw three or four where the catcher doesn't even have to move."
His curveball and slider are both very good pitches that offer different looks. The hook isn't strictly up and down, as it also moves left to right and has tight spin. The slider sweeps across the zone and darts down, making it a tough pitch for left-handed hitters to handle – a pitch he favors as his out-pitch.
His fastball sits in the high-80s, touching 90 MPH and he relies on pinpoint control to four quadrants to see success. If he is getting hit, it is because the fastball has become too juicy in the center of the zone or is lacking significant movement.
The changeup hasn't come on as quickly as some would have hoped. When it is on, he can paint the outside corner against right-handed hitters. When it is not behaving as he hopes, it hangs over the zone and gets pummeled.
"He's got as good a command as any starting pitcher we've got in the system," Couchee said. "You watch him pitch and the stuff doesn't overwhelm you. Unlike Drew (Miller), who throws a lot of balls over the heart of the plate, very seldom do you see this kid miss with a pitch over the plate."
Not surprisingly, the focus of improvement for Garrison has centered on his changeup and two-seamer. He has lacked consistency with the changeup, flashing the ability to throw it at will for a strike and then losing its feel an inning later. On the two-seam fastball, Garrison has been trying to get more movement with the pitch, utilizing different grips to get the desired effect.
"He's got four pitches to him," Masse said. "He's got a very good curveball, his slider's a little bit spinny at times – it doesn't have a lot of depth. He's still working on his changeup. His changeup is still just ok. There are times I've seen his changeup very good, though. For the most part, it's probably, maybe a touch below average right now and sometimes it's average.
"But, his key is that his fastball command is so good. He can throw it in, he can throw it out. He's not afraid to pitch up in the zone if he has to. If he sees a guy late on his fastball, he'll elevate."
He is at his best when he is working the corners and is not a pitcher that can get hitter rolling over on his pitches – meaning fly balls are just as common as ground balls. It also means that Garrison has to be precise or he could be taken deep or into the gaps.
"Garrison was incredible," Padres vice president of scouting and player development Grady Fuson said. "He comes out of the vault of so many lefties, not big stuff, has athletic moves and really learned to pitch inside. He has a very good feel for his slider, change and curve and a great mindset for pitching."
"He's a four-pitch guy, so it took him a while to get the feel of the slider and the curveball," Webber said. "I see a better pitcher than I saw last year, but at the end of the year, he was probably a little bit tired. His fastball has more life, he's throwing it more down in the zone. His changeup has been a really good pitch for him. He's definitely, as I see it, a four-pitch guy that has four very effective pitches."
The southpaw had trouble early in the year preventing runners from stealing third off him. Using various techniques taught to him by pitching coach Steve Webber and manager Bill Masse, he improved in that area through the year.
Garrison employed different leg kicks and began varying his looks towards second base to prevent thieves from taking the extra bag. The result was a 4-for-13 mark in catching base runners attempting to steal – a number that dwindled as less and less base runners even tried to take third.
A confident pitcher with terrific makeup, Garrison offers a complete package with his ability to hit his spots, forget about bad days and take the good forward with him.
"He's impressive," Masse said. He's got some good moxie on him too. You watch Steve Garrison pitch after one inning, and you're like ‘this guy just reminds me of a major league pitcher.' Just his whole moxie out there, his delivery is very mechanical. It's basically how you write it out. It's very solid. That allows him to have such good command too in his delivery."
Conclusion: At 22, Garrison is on the verge of hitting Triple-A. He has control of his pitches and just needs to improve on the consistency with his changeup to be the best pitcher he can be. Many of the other facets of his game are already in place. He could be a solid #4 or #5 start in the big leagues with his arsenal of pitches and solid command.
Surgery was a blow to the left-hander and his mental makeup will be challenged more than when he is on the mound. Finding his control and stuff will be vital to his future success. He has the pedigree but will have to mature on the side to take it back to the mound when the arm is ready.
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