With minor league reporting dates set for early March, players are starting to put the finishing touches on their off-season routines, while they begin to sort out and pack the things they will need for the seven month grind of professional baseball.
Ready to get back to action and work towards a promotion to the high-A Myrtle Beach Pelicans, Chicago Cubs right-handed pitching prospect David Garner is looking to build off the success he had in 2014 when he split time between the short season-A Boise Hawks and low-A Kane County Cougars. The Cubs chose to move their low-A affiliate to South Bend, Indiana this off-season, which is only 11 miles south of Garner’s hometown of Niles, Michigan. Garner may be closer to home, but he is more focused on earning that promotion, so he can be one step closer to his dream of playing in the big leagues.
“If I was assigned to South Bend it would be fun. I would love to play for family and friends,” explained Garner. “In baseball you want to make it to the big leagues though. To do that, you need to move up the levels. At the end of the day it would be great to play close to home, but I’ll definitely pass on the opportunity to earn a promotion.”
The righty began his 2014 in the Northwest League, where he performed well in his 15 innings of work for the Boise Hawks. Garner went 1-1 with a 3.60 ERA, 23 strikeouts, and two saves in his brief stint in Idaho. Garner found success in Boise largely in part to his pitching coach Brian Lawrence, a former major leaguer that gave the young pitcher some great advice to not only find success in the Northwest League, but higher levels as well.
“Brian Lawrence is the man,” explained Garner. “Working with him helped to teach me how to pitch, not just throw. He taught me how to pitch in certain situations. Brian also taught us more than just baseball. He taught us how to be professionals on-and-off the field.”
Promoted to the Kane County Cougars in July, Garner would have an opportunity to finish up his 2014 close to home in the Midwest League. Going 1-0 with a 4.02 ERA, 13 strikeouts, and a save in 15 2/3 innings of work, the righty achieved much more than his basic statistics displayed. Posting career bests in K/BB ratio at 1.30 and BABIP at .294 showed the progression, the 22-year old pitcher made in his second professional season.
Joining the Chicago Cubs organization in the 2013 draft, Garner was selected in the 7th round out of Michigan State University, a moment he admits was too stressful to focus on that day, but he is very happy with the end result and the possibly of playing in the major leagues close to home one day.
“I remember the moment I was drafted by the Chicago Cubs. I’ll never forget it,” stated Garner. “My buddy and I went to the zoo. I love animals and figured it would be a great way to relieve stress.”
“Finding out it was the Cubs made it even better,” he added. “Chicago is only about 100 miles away from my hometown. To make it with the Cubs and be close enough for family and friends would be a dream come true.”
Preparing for professional baseball at both the NCAA level and in the Cape Cod League, Garner pitched three seasons for Michigan State logging 217 2/3 innings. Garner had a career ERA of 3.98 and he racked up 192 strikeouts, while playing for the Spartans. Spending the summer of 2012 playing for the Hyannis Harbor Hawks of the Cape Cod League, Garner achieved one of his biggest accomplishments to date when he was named an all-star in the prestigious summer league after maintaining an impressive 1.13 WHIP in 43 1/3 innings.
“Being a Spartan was the best time of my life. Beautiful campus, great people, and great academics,” said Garner. “Playing baseball there for three years really helped me to grow up and mature. It also helped me to get used to being on my own.”
For those who haven’t had an opportunity to see Garner pitch yet. He features a fastball and a slider that he throws out of a ¾ arm slot. The young prospect consistently receives above-average rankings for both his pitch control and efficiency on the mound, two areas that will only improve with more repetition in the future.
Entering the 2015 campaign with big goals and expectations for himself, Garner is hoping all the hard work he put into his conditioning this off-season will be on display in spring training and he earns another quick promotion.
“I have a lot of goals for my 2015 season,” said Garner. “I want to earn a promotion. Win another championship. Stay healthy and definitely have fun playing baseball every day.”
“I had a busy off-season to prepare for spring training,” he added. “In the off-season, I like to work out, throw, condition, and watch film.”
Be sure to follow David Garner as he continues to be an excellent bullpen option for one of the Chicago Cubs affiliates in 2015.