The KC Royals promoted outfielder Drew Waters and started him in center field against Chicago Monday afternoon, two moves that thrust him into center ring at Kauffman Stadium. Playing in his first big league game but displaying the patience and discipline of a veteran, Waters worked White Sox reliever Joe Kelly for a one-out, bases loaded walk in the bottom of the eighth that scored what proved to be the winning run in the Royals’ 6-4 victory.
Not to be lost in the celebration of Waters’ memorable major league debut, however, is the effort of spirited Kansas City reliever Amir Garrett. Seven years Waters’ senior and a veteran of almost six years in The Show, Garrett entered the game to begin the eighth after the Sox tied things at 4 in the seventh.
Garrett made sure the game stayed deadlocked. A lefty facing three righthanders, Garrett struck out AJ Pollock, retired Luis Robert on a liner to Nicky Lopez at short, and got Eloy Jiménez on a fly to center.
Waters then drew his run-scoring walk and MJ Melendez’s sacrifice fly scored Ryan O’Hearn to secure Garrett’s third win of the season.
His day’s work didn’t take long, was as effective as Garrett has been lately, and probably helped the case he’s building to stick around Kansas City next year.
Amir Garrett is trying to make his case for an encore with the KC Royals.
Garrett, who complements an imposing mound presence—he stands 6-feet-5 and weighs 239 pounds—with infectious in-game energy and spirit, came to Kansas City in the trade that sent starter and two-time Royal Mike Minor to Cincinnati shortly after the MLB lockout ended. Garrett had given the Reds five mostly so-so seasons, going 10-17 with a troubling 5.10 ERA in 235 games, only 14 of which he started, and arrived in KC having pitched exclusively in relief for four straight campaigns.
He brought with him that excessive ERA and control problems, including three campaigns marred by BB/9 numbers exceeding 5.0—5.1 in 2017, 5.6 in 2019, and 5.5 last year.
The Minor trade paid early dividends; Garrett didn’t surrender a run until May 3. But he struggled from then until the All-Star Break, a 23-appearance stretch when his ERA skyrocketed from the 1.42 generated solely by the run he yielded May 3 to 8.47, and he walked 17 in 17 innings.
Garrett has since righted his ship. Since the Break, and including Monday’s game, he’s 2-0 in 15 appearances, hasn’t given up an earned run, has 10 strikeouts in 13 innings, and opposing batters are hitting a microscopic .077 against him.
He has, however, issued seven walks in those 13 frames.
Will all that be good enough for the Royals to want Garrett back next season? Perhaps, but he must pitch well in the 38 games the club has left. His control still needs work, but it always has, and manager Mike Matheny seems comfortable pitching him regularly.
Like any pitcher, Garrett is bound to suffer a few more bumps in the road before this season ends. If he’s generally effective, though, don’t be surprised if the Royals seriously consider giving him another year—he’s on an extremely team friendly $2.025 million contract this season and can’t test free agency until after the 2023 campaign.
He has upside; his talent is obvious, he’s throwing well and, with six years in the big leagues going into his age-31 season next year, could help KC’s younger relievers.
Amir Garrett is making a case to return to the Royals next year.