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Garrison Hoping His Bulldog Mentality Locks Down the Ninth Inning

by Matt Kardos | Posted on Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

Thunder Manager Tony Franklin has historically shied away from labeling anybody as his primary closer for most of his eight seasons at the helm. Already in 2014, Franklin has used six different pitchers to record at least one save. Franklin typically rides the hot-hand in the bullpen to close out games. Diego Moreno, Branden Pinder and Pat Venditte were all given that opportunity earlier this season but have since been promoted to Triple-A Scranton. After recording his second save of the season on Monday night, righty Taylor Garrison appears to be the next guy in line to lock down the ninth inning for the Thunder.

The 23-year old Garrison, who will turn 24 on Saturday, was a seventh-round draft selection by the Yankees in 2012 out of Fresno State University. The California native has had a stellar career as a closer since joining the organization; in 106 career innings, Garrison has gone 6-6 with a 2.12 ERA with 24 saves and a 0.90 WHIP.

Taylor Garrison has pitched well in May and appears to be in prime position to lock down the ninth inning for Trenton. Photo by: Matt Kardos

Taylor Garrison has pitched well in May and appears to be in prime position to lock down the ninth inning for Trenton. Photo by: Matt Kardos

In 2014, Garrison has been forced to adjust to developing as a middle-inning relief pitcher rather than his accustomed role as a closer. In 12 games, he has gone 1-1 with a 3.00 ERA with two saves in three opportunities.

“Closing is something that I am familiar with from the past,” said Garrison. “I have done it both in college and in my early stages in this organization. This year hasn’t been so much of a closing role for me but we are at a Double-A level where you need to develop in whatever role the big league team may need you to fill.”

Garrison added, “Pitching earlier in a game, it is harder to get that adrenaline rush for me. That has been a tough transition, pitching with adrenaline is just a different deal and to be able to come out there with the same intensity as if you’re coming in for a save is something I need to have in any situation. I haven’t pitched my best, I have struggled more than I have before but I am determined to get back on the train and start throwing the ball a lot better.”

In April, Garrison threw 9.2 innings and struggled mightily, pitching to an inflated 4.66 ERA for the month. It was the first time that the reliever had been forced to overcome adversity in his professional career.

“It is all mental for me,” admitted Garrison. “I have been going through a little bit of a mental rough patch. I have had nothing but success in the past and this is the first rough patch that I have had. It is a transition that every minor leaguer has to go through.”

Since the calendar has turned to May, Franklin has instilled more trust and responsibility in Garrison and he has flourished in the opportunity.  Last night, Harrisburg was able to piece together two singles against Manny Barreda to bring the go-ahead run to the plate with nobody out in a two-run game. Franklin summoned Garrison from the pen and he retired the next three batters in succession to record the save and effectively snap the Thunder’s six-game losing skid.

“Coming in to that closing situation, you’ve got to go at them, you have got to be aggressive,” explained Garrison. “You have to fight for your teammates; you have to go out there and tell yourself that your team deserves that win and you’re going to be the guy to ensure that they get that W is a pretty compelling mindset. You’ve just got to go out there and be a bulldog and get it done.”

With 12 games still remaining in the month, Garrison already has eclipsed his innings from April with 11.1 in May which is an indication that Franklin is growing more comfortable with putting Garrison on the rubber to get big outs. That confidence has translated to a 1.59 ERA and a .189 batting average against for the month.

“Its hard not to dwell on failures; baseball is a game of failure,” Garrison said. “The fear of failure is something that drives a lot of guys who have success. You have to be able to recognize that failure is going to be part of the game and not be afraid of it.”

Garrison added, “I’m a competitor, I am a guy who battles and I don’t shy away from any kind of situation or any kind of hitter, regardless of his history. I go at anybody with he best of my stuff and be aggressive with everything that I have.”

Garrison says that his closers mentality is much like the mantra of his college mascot, a bulldog. During his days at Fresno State, Garrison developed a quiet confidence in his ability and has carried that with him to the Yankees organization.

“I’ve seen the most success in my career by pounding the zone and being a competitor and never letting down,” said Garrison. “As a closer, you have to have that attitude; you just have to be a bulldog. As a Fresno State alum, I am a bulldog at heart.”

Garrison added, “I’m always going to have that mindset and that is not going to change. We are all here for a reason; I’m in Double-A for the New York Yankees, one of the best franchises in all of sports, and I am just a couple of calls away from making that dream come true. My plan thus far has worked; it’s still baseball, it’s still a game, and I’m not going to change anything.”

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