: Rey Garramone
: August 22, 1987
There is a reason he is slated to be the number three starter for the Eugene Emeralds when the season opens on Tuesday. The kid has talent.
Signed as a draft-and-follow, the right-hander came off a season that saw him pitch 69 innings at Central Arizona Community College. He tacked on another 42.2 innings in the Arizona Rookie League, pitching more than he ever had.
It was one stretch of the season that skewed his numbers. From July 21 through August 1 – pitching in the Arizona heat and feeling a little exhausted – Garramone was tagged for 12 runs over eight innings on 12 hits and two walks.
"Just a little bit of fatigue and some better competition – all of a sudden they are getting rattled around a little bit and they have never had that happen before," AZL pitching coach Dave Rajsich said. "It is a little bit of a wakeup call for them."
The Colorado native gave up just 13 runs, eight earned, over the rest of the year – spanning 34.2 innings, a robust 2.08 ERA. He caught his second wind after that August 1 game and allowed three earned over his final 17.2 innings.
He struggled mightily against left-handed hitters. They thumped him at a .368 clip while righties were limited to a .214 average.
The biggest area that left room for improvement? The leadoff hitter. They reached base at a .476 clip off him, and he struggled getting that first-pitch strike. When he fell behind in the count, Garramone would be relegated to throwing two-seam fastball that would get laced up the middle of the field.
He would then settle down with men on base with working out of the stretch showing a more consistent release point and line to the plate.
"He had to learn how to pitch," Padres' minor league field coordinator Bill Bryk said. "He is on the right track and learned he had to spot his fastball. He has a special arm but is still learning."
Garramone had a tendency to fall off his line from the windup – planting his leg in different places and not driving towards where he wanted to go with the ball. It has been something stressed to him at Instructs and again in extended spring training.
The theory is simple to follow. Pitch where you want to walk. If your foot isn't aligned towards where you want the ball to go, how can you expect your body to compensate? A byproduct of that was seeing his head tilt and not getting the most out of his arm.
Because he falls off the mound in odd ways, Garramone was also not in a good spot to defend his position.
Thus, mechanics have been on his mind for months and the fruits of his labor have paid off by hitting the strike zone early and often.
Garramone has also learned how to pitch after being a thrower throughout his early career and into last season.
"Now I am learning how to use my pitches, learning how to stay on balance," said Garramone. "I have been learning a lot since I have been here."
He came into the year with a fastball, changeup and curveball that has more sliding action than the traditional 12-to-6. He can hit 91-92 MPH on his fastball with good life and natural movement and has room for growth – both in terms of physical maturity and heater speed.
The changeup is a pitch that he has lacked confidence in. He rarely threw it a year ago and would never use it when he needed a strike.
He went out to Instructs last fall specifically to work on that pitch, along with his mechanics.
While he got knocked around as he learned to better control the pitch, Garramone did toss a changeup 12.8 percent of the time. He experimented with several grips and now is beginning to hone its feel while getting the most out of its movement. This year, we could see the changeup used effectively now that it has past its infancy stages of use.
His first-pitch strikes were also up to 57 percent after hovering below the 50 percent threshold in Arizona.
"He is going to be a nice prospect," Rajsich added. "He has good arm action and a live arm – you can see a lot of movement with the fastball. You just wait – it is there as long as you don't panic."
ETA: With rest after a long season in 2006, the real Rey Garramone could be on tap this year. Healthy and refined, the now 19-year-old will move up in competition but may have a game to match. He still has room to put weight on his frame and that could prove pivotal in his development – adding a few ticks to his fastball along the way. Building up the stamina for the following year will also be important, but his confidence is up and the results should follow.
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Oftentimes, there is a reason to be cautiously optimistic about a great professional debut. The same can be said for a player that faces some struggles. Rey Garramone falls into the latter category, but it does not diminish his future potential.
Rey Garramone falls into the latter category, but it does not diminish his future potential...