"I learned a lot at each level I was at," said Brennan Garr
, who reached Double-A Frisco in his first full season of professional baseball. "I tried to pick up a few things from the coaches. With me being so new at the pitching thing, that was kind of my goal going into the season. I wanted to take in as much as I can and use what they teach and talk to me about."
Though the Rangers drafted Garr as a pitcher in the ninth round of the 2006 draft, he didn't have much experience on the mound coming into the 2007 season. The 23-year-old starred as a two-way player at Northern Colorado, where he hit .346 while recording five saves in 2006. Despite being the team's closer, Garr logged just 13.1 innings during his final collegiate season.
With such little experience, Garr had plenty of learning to do as he entered the 2007 campaign. The hurler started his season at Single-A Clinton where he worked with pitching coach Danny Clark on the mental aspect of being a pitcher.
"We worked a lot on how to read hitters," said Garr. "Like how to read what they are looking for and how they foul off pitches. We also talked about pitch selection, like when to use certain pitches and how to set up hitters."
Garr's work with his pitching coach paid off, as he posted a 2.31 earned run average in 39 innings with the LumberKings. He surrendered only 25 hits, walked 16, and struck out 50.
The Colorado native issued just 22 free passes in 55.1 innings between Single-A Clinton and High-A Bakersfield this year. It was a drastic change from last season, where Garr walked 14 in 26 innings with short-season Spokane. One of the reasons for the improved control was a mechanical change.
As the innings piled up for Garr, his arm eventually grew tired, leading him to slip back into old mechanical habits.
"I think [my arm] got a little tired," said Garr. "It wasn't hurt or anything but it was getting a little tired. It forced me to use my lower half a lot more to help out my arm. That was causing me to revert back to my old ways towards the end of the season. During the season when I was using my legs, it really helped out my arm."
Garr attributes the tired arm and loss of mechanics to his 10 walks in seven innings at Double-A Frisco. The issue was something he worked to correct with Frisco pitching coach Terry Clark.
"Towards the end we did some mechanic work that [Terry Clark] saw," he said. "My mechanics were causing me to be a little more inconsistent with the strike zone. We worked one-on-one a couple of times with getting down on the mound and staying level. That was the big thing I got from T.C."
|Garr's fastball reaches the mid-90's. |
Once Garr started to feel comfortable with his fastball and curveball, he began working on his third pitch – a changeup. The right-hander felt his changeup developed a great deal during his short time with the Bakersfield Blaze, but his real test came in Frisco. Garr says the disciplined Double-A hitters forced him to throw his changeup for strikes.
"Especially with the hitters [in Double-A], it's good to be able to show them something else," said Garr of developing a third pitch. I had people sitting on my fastball because I used it a lot, which is fine because that's my number one pitch. But Frisco definitely taught me to throw my changeup more for strikes instead of just showing it and having hitters in A-ball swing at it even if it's not a strike. Those guys in Double-A, they don't swing at it. You have to prove you can throw a strike with it."
The Rangers chose to send Garr to the Instructional League after the season so he can continue to work on re-building his mechanics and refining his changeup.
"I'm working on my lower half," said Garr of his focus during instructs. "I'm working on keeping my shoulders level and lengthening my stride out, which is big for me. It helps my arm out and keeps a down angle on it. Mostly that and learning how to throw the changeup more and more. I'm learning how to throw it in fastball counts and that kind of stuff."
Garr sustained a minor back injury while preparing for instructs, but he expects to be over the ailment in a matter of days. Once he returns to 100 percent, the reliever believes he will do most of his work in bullpen sessions.
"I'm not real sure," said Garr when asked how much he would throw at instructs. "I know it's not going to be that much game time, but I'm going to have a lot of mound and bullpen work. That's all they've really told me."
Few players in the Rangers organization made a bigger splash in 2007 than 23-year-old Brennan Garr. A hard-throwing reliever from the University of Northern Colorado, Garr posted a 2.02 ERA in 41 appearances between Single-A, High-A, and Double-A this past season. Lone Star Dugout features the prospect, who is currently working out in the Instructional League.
Lone Star Dugout features right-handed pitcher Brennan Garr, who is currently at instructionals