DENVER – Returning from a five-game suspension Sunday, Cincinnati Reds reliever Amir Garrett said it was “pretty tough” to be away from his teammates.
After pre-game workouts, Garrett watched the last three games from the Coors Field press box or from the hotel when he was upset with himself because he couldn’t be in the bullpen.
“It sucked sitting up there watching my team battle without me,” Garrett said. “But you live and learn.”
What did Garrett learn? He chuckled and then paused for about 10 seconds as he thought about his answer.
He was suspended for “inciting a benches-clearing incident” when he yelled from the mound after striking out Chicago Cubs star Anthony Rizzo on May 4. He was initially given a seven-game suspension from the league before it was reduced to five games.
“I don’t know what I can tell you,” Garrett said. “I learned not to have fun.”
Garrett, speaking to reporters for the first time since the initial suspension, admitted he was surprised by the length of it. Chicago’s Javier Báez yelled at Garrett from the dugout and hopped the railing, which is when the two teams flooded onto the field. Báez wasn’t suspended and received an undisclosed fine.
“I was surprised that I got that many games,” Garrett said. “I’m not going to talk about it too much or throw others under the bus, but I think that was kind of steep, the five games. But it is what it is. I understand they probably wanted to make an example out of me. I’ll be the example, it’s all good. I can take it.”
The tough part for Garrett is that he was pitching as well as he had all season prior to the suspension. Manager David Bell moved him into lower-leverage situations after his rough start to the year, but he’s retired 12 of his last 15 batters (two hits and one walk) with six strikeouts.
He was scheduled to throw a simulated game Friday at Coors Field, but it was rained out. Instead, he threw a bullpen session.
“It was a mechanical change I was doing,” Garrett said, noting he lost deception by leaking on the front side of his delivery. “My biggest struggle is lefties so far and that doesn’t happen. I went and looked at some video, Wade (Miley) found something.
“Hitters are good. They get paid to hit the ball. Just a half-second they can see the ball, I was pulling off with my shoulder, so it was exposing everything. I have a lot of deception to my ball, I can throw my slider in the middle of the plate and they can swing over it. But for that split-second they were able to see it, they were picking it up and hitting every single thing.”
SENZEL AT THIRD: Nick Senzel, returning to the lineup from a left heel bruise, made his first MLB start at third base on Sunday.
Senzel was drafted as a third baseman and played there for much of his minor-league career. Entering Sunday, he had played one MLB inning at the position with six starts at second base.
“He’s been staying ready, getting work in, and I think today is the day to give it a shot,” Bell said before the game. “He’s ready to go. He wants to do it, so that’s the big thing.”
During the road trip, Senzel started five games in the infield and two in center field.
MOUSTAKAS OUT: Mike Moustakas was out of the lineup for the second straight game Sunday with a right heel bruise.
He didn’t participate in pre-game activities before Saturday’s game, but Bell said he was moving around better than expected.
“I think Moose’s is a little bit more significant,” Bell said. “It takes a lot to get him out of the lineup, but hopefully it is a bruise and not a fracture or anything and that we’ll have him back very, very soon.”
NEW FIRST BASEMAN? With Moustakas sidelined for the last two games, the Reds started Alex Blandino at first base Saturday and Kyle Farmer on Sunday.
Tyler Stephenson has been taking ground balls at the position at the beginning of each series, and it’s possible he could earn a start there if Moustakas misses more time. Stephenson has played one inning at the position in his pro career.
“There’s a big difference between practice and the game,” Bell said. “At some point, we're probably just going to throw him out there and let him experience it. That's really the only way to do it during the season. But I don't think we're quite there yet.
“I think, no matter what, it's going to be good for him to add that to what he can do for our team and his own career. With his hands and the way he moves, I really believe that he can do it.”
SAVING INNINGS: Tejay Antone is the Reds’ most reliable reliever, but he entered Sunday with only four relief appearances (6 2/3 innings) in the club’s 13 games this month.
Lucas Sims has been used similarly, making four relief appearances (5 2/3 innings) this month.
“I know that they're both going to pitch a lot,” Bell said. “It's been a little bit, maybe not as consistent, but it's really the way they've been used also. They've been used to do whatever it takes to win games. Tejay's pitched anywhere from an inning to four innings. So, it seems, every time they pitch, they play a huge part in our wins.
“Any time they get a little bit of a break, I think that's a good thing. Each day that passes that they don't pitch it increases, you know, maybe what they could give you (the next game) for example. Over the long haul, I think any, any break they get is going to benefit them, will keep them healthy throughout the year.”