Name: Brennan Garr
Position: Relief Pitcher
DOB: February 22, 1984
"I thought I pitched very well when I was healthy," said right-hander Brennan Garr when asked to recall his 2008 campaign. "I would have liked my innings to be a little higher obviously, but when I was out on the mound, I thought I had a good year."
In 2007, Garr soared through three levels and reached Double-A Frisco in his first full season. The reliever had a lot of momentum entering the '08 season, but it was halted early. Garr got off to a rough start, as he allowed six runs while walking six batters in just 4.1 April innings.
Realizing the slow start was largely due to Garr's ailing shoulder, the Rangers elected to place him on the disabled list and shut him down for three weeks. After returning, the right-hander was effective for the rest of the season, posting a 2.95 ERA with 50 strikeouts in 39.2 innings.
"I started locating my fastball better," said Garr of his excellent second half. "Also I was trusting my changeup a lot more. I was using my changeup as a pretty good strikeout pitch for awhile."
The Colorado native did not begin throwing a changeup until the 2007 season, but just one year later, he had the confidence to use it as a put-away pitch.
"I didn't use my slider as much in the second half because I got comfortable with my changeup," he said. "I was using it a lot to right-handers, and I used to only use it to lefties. But I learned how to throw it to righties and it was really effective when I had two strikes."
When Garr is successful, it usually means his mechanics are in order. But when he struggles – like last April – it's in part because the stride in his delivery isn't long enough. The 24-year-old even believes his early-season injury may have been a product of his reverting back to old mechanical habits.
"I know that's what I always go back to when something is going wrong," Garr replied, referring to the need to lengthen his stride. "And also when I stride longer, I don't use my arm as much. That's a big reason why I try to work on that all the time."
As the second-half results [2.70 ERA in 20 innings] show, Garr regained consistency in the second half. He gives credit to his consistent mechanics.
"It got to the point where I was not thinking about it," he said. "When I was working on it all the time, I would tell myself, ‘get down the mound, get down the mound.' And then finally when you get it, you just do it and it's there every time. I think I was getting that in the second half."
Garr, who plans on reporting to spring training in less than two weeks, is optimistic about his 2009 campaign because his mechanics are better than ever.
"Normally when I first start throwing ‘pens, I'm kind of back to the length I had in the past," Garr explained. "Now I'm at about the length that I'd like to be already. I know that putting the work in the last couple of years has been helping out."
As for his arm, Garr says there's no reason to worry.
"It feels good," he said. "No problems at all."
Also See: Instant Analysis: Frisco/Corpus Christi (May 8, 2008)
Location gets Garr babck on track (July 30, 2008)
Repertoire: Fastball, Slider, Changeup.
Fastball: Garr's power fastball – or rather, his command of it – will be the deciding factor in whether he makes it as a Major League reliever. His fastball generally sat between 91-94 mph in '08, though it was sometimes a notch lower and sometimes a bit higher. He does a good job of working low in the zone, a quality that has led to just six home runs surrendered in 132.1 professional innings. But his fastball command has been spotty at times, and it's largely due to inconsistent mechanics. Because Garr is still not that experienced on the mound, his stride tends to become too short at times, causing extra stress on his shoulder and throwing his command out of whack.
When Garr succeeded with Clinton and Bakersfield in 2007, he gave credit to the Rangers for teaching him correct mechanics. But as he wore down late in the year [after being promoted to Double-A Frisco], he slowly reverted to old mechanical habits. Garr had trouble keeping his mechanics consistent [and his shoulder healthy] for much of last summer, but he got back on track in July and August.
Other Pitches: At times, Garr calls his breaking ball a slider. At others, he says it's a curve. In reality, the pitch has become a hard slurve. The low-80s offering has a hard downward break that moves away from right-handed hitters, and it has been the put-away pitch that has helped him rack up 158 strikeouts in 132.1 professional innings. Garr's command of the slurve is a tick above average.
Garr spent his college career and his first summer in the Rangers' organization as a two-pitch pitcher. It wasn't until he reached Bakersfield in 2007 that the Rangers helped him add a split-fingered changeup. The pitch took a significant step forward in the second half of last season. Garr was able to effectively throw the offering to both left- and right-handed hitters down the stretch. While the pitch is still somewhat inconsistent, its continued development could give him three above-average pitches in time.
Projection: A position player for much of his collegiate career, Garr logged just 13.1 innings in his final season at Northern Colorado. He had a career-high 62.1 innings in '07 and threw 44 frames last summer. In other words, Garr will almost certainly be a short-inning reliever for the duration of his career. Garr has three pitches with swing-and-miss potential, making him a good candidate for late-inning situations. But his command of all three offerings – particularly the fastball – must improve for him to be a successful big league reliever. It's often easy to forget that the 2009 season will only be Garr's third year as a full-time pitcher.
2009 Outlook: Garr's first-half shoulder problems last season limited him to just 44 innings. He'll likely begin the '09 campaign back at Double-A Frisco, but a hot start could have him in Triple-A within the first couple of months. If Garr proves he's completely over last season's shoulder issues – and his mechanics remain consistent – he could see action in the big league bullpen by the end of the season.