First Pippins Player Reaches Major Leagues

Reed Garrett, Yakima Valley’s first winning pitcher, makes Detroit’s 25-man roster

By Miles Klotz | Mar 26, 2019

YAKIMA, Wash. – Reed Garrett is still making history for the Yakima Valley Pippins.

Garrett, a Virginia Military Institute right-hander in 2014,threw the first pitch in Pippins history — a strike — on June 6, 2014. He pitched seven innings that night and picked up the win in the franchise-opening victory against the Wenatchee AppleSox in front of 3,209 fans at Yakima County Stadium.

Five years later, Garrett is the first Pippin to reach the major leagues, with the Detroit Tigers as a Rule 5 draft selection. He secured a spot in the Tigers bullpen when manager Ron Gardenhire finalized Detroit’s 25-man active roster Monday.

“From a baseball standpoint, Reed’s stuff passes the eye test,” Pippins manager Marcus McKimmy said. “He was our best guy (to start the Pippins’ first-ever game), and he would have been our best guy had he stayed with us all summer.

“But the thing that sticks with me was that he was a genuinely incredible human. He came from a great school, he was a mature adult with a great head on his shoulders, intelligent, a leader by example,” McKimmy continued. “So, for us and the fans who got to see him pitch that first start, they got a glimpse of a really, really quality baseball player and an incredible young man.”

Garrett made two starts in a Pippins uniform and picked up two wins. After earning the victory on opening night in Yakima, he pitched five days later in Corvallis against the Knights, again tossing seven innings and earning the win while striking out six and allowing just two earned runs.

Garrett was drafted in the 16thround by the Texas Rangers in 2014, just one day after his Opening Night start, and spent the first five seasons of his professional career in that organization. He agreed to terms with the Rangers after his second Pippins start, and began his pro career a week later at short-season Spokane in the Northwest League.

In December, he was the fifth overall pick by Detroit in the 2018 Rule 5 Draft.

Under the guidelines of the Rule 5 Draft, Garrett must remain on the 25-man Major League roster for the entire 2019 season, and must remain active (not on the injured list) for at least 90 days. If he does not remain on the Major League roster, he must be offered back to the Rangers organization for $50,000, half of what the Tigers paid to acquire his rights. After a strong spring training, Garrett worked his way into the Tigers’ bullpen plans for 2019, and potentially beyond.

“For a middle-round draft pick, the odds are a little more stacked against you, but for a guy with Reed’s makeup, his character and his personality and his stuff, ultimately, you knew that he had a chance,” McKimmy said. “And for minor league baseball, that’s all any of these guys really want and ask for. For Reed, he’s a great example of a guy who wasn’t highly invested in, but he bet on himself and had the make-up and character and ability to get there, to go through the trials and grind of minor league baseball.”

A starter for the Pippins and in college at VMI, Garrett primarily remained a starter for the first three years of his pro career. After a full-time move to the bullpen in 2017 at Double-A Frisco, Texas, everything took off – both literally and figuratively.

Garrett’s strikeout rate, which hovered between six and seven strikeouts per nine innings as a starter, jumped to over a batter per inning the past two seasons. His previously low-90s fastball now sits in the mid-90s and has touched 99, to go with a power breaking ball, a newly implemented split-finger fastball, and a change-up. He split 2018 between Frisco and Triple-A Round Rock, Texas, and posted a combined 2.04 ERA while striking out 61 batters in 61.2 innings.

Garrett figures to be a key piece out of the bullpen for a Tigers pitching staff that includes WCL alums Matthew Boyd (Corvallis) and Blaine Hardy (Bend/Wenatchee). In spring training for Detroit, he posted an ERA of 6.10 in ten appearances, striking out 11 batters in 10.1 innings of work.

The Tigers open their 2019 regular season Thursday in Toronto against the Blue Jays. Detroit visits the Seattle Mariners July 25-28.

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