Garrison on the road back in AFL
Padres left-hander sharp following shoulder surgery
Steve Garrison has promised himself he won't dream about his future with the Padres, but it's becoming a little harder to keep in the back of his mind.
"I'm trying not to think that far ahead because if I do, it's all I think about," Garrison said with a chuckle. "Right now, my focus is on the Arizona Fall League and getting my arm healthy. When Spring Training rolls around, whatever the Padres want to do, I'm sure they'll make the best decision for me and I'll keep throwing."
It's been just over a year since Garrison, one of the top left-handed prospects in the San Diego system, was forced to stop throwing. But he continues to impress in Arizona as he works his way back from shoulder surgery.
Garrison struck out two over three shutout innings Tuesday -- his second straight scoreless appearance -- as the Peoria Saguaros topped the Mesa Solar Sox, 2-1.
The New Jersey native, who tossed three shutout frames in his previous start on Oct. 28 against Surprise, threw 21 of 36 pitches for strikes. He walked one and allowed one hit, a one-out single to Cubs prospect Josh Vitters in the second.
"I'm feeling great, trying to keep the ball down with my fastball, get ahead of hitters," said Garrison, who's allowed just one earned run over his last 9 1/3 innings. "These hitters are the best around, you can't miss a spot."
Garrison, the Brewers' 10th-round pick in the 2005 Draft, spent time at three levels during the 2009 season following surgery last October. He was limited to 12 starts in 13 appearances, although he made his way back to Double-A San Antonio to finish the season, a year after spending the entire summer in the Texas League.
The Padres will track his progress but, perhaps most importantly, Garrison is throwing without discomfort.
"There's no pain, so that's always a plus. I'm now getting the confidence back and the competitive edge. Coming off surgery, it's starting to feeling really good," he said. "I feel stronger than I used to. It's such a good feeling to throw as hard as I can and know my arm isn't going to hurt -- that is a really great feeling.
"I'm gaining strength, but it's a long process. It's just really great to feel good and to let it go."
You can't blame Garrison for being a little excited -- the 23-year-old said he'd always hoped to get the opportunity to pitch in the AFL. After a rough debut (four runs over two innings), he's settled into a nice groove.
"I just want to perform the way I know I can, compete and be successful -- just show everybody that I'm healthy and I've gotten here," he said. "I need to keep it up. I wanted to get here, pitch well and perform. It's giving me the confidence to pitch at this level."
Garrison reached 90 on the ballpark's radar gun Tuesday, although his fastball consistently came in around 89. He worked in his slider and changeup but said his curveball remains a work in progress.
"It's really great to come in before the game with a plan and have [the catchers] follow it. It makes life a lot easier," he said. "I'm basically getting ahead, throwing all my pitches for strikes, keeping hitters off-balance."
The Padres acquired Garrison from Milwaukee in 2007 with left-hander Joe Thatcher and right-hander Will Inman for reliever Scott Linebrink. He went 7-7 with a 3.82 ERA in 24 starts for San Antonio in 2008 but spent much of the '09 campaign easing his way back in the Rookie-level Arizona League. He pitched 20 1/3 innings over nine starts there before making two appearances for Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore and two more with the Missions. He finished the year with a 5.56 ERA, although he struck out 32 batters in 34 innings.
"It's been a very long year, but I'm very happy that I'm coming off it," he said. "I'm feeling great.
"It's always been one of my goals to reach the Arizona Fall League, to be a part of it. To get here and perform the way I want to perform, the last few outings have been really great. It's an honor to be here."
Mesa took the lead in the fourth when Cubs prospect Starlin Castro greeted Vinnie Pestano (Indians) with a leadoff homer. Peoria responded in the bottom of the frame when Brandon Hicks (Braves) singled home Indians catcher Matt McBride with two outs. Padres shortstop Lance Zawadzki singled in the go-ahead run in the fifth for the Saguaros.
Castro also tripled and raised his average to .429. Indians farmhand Connor Graham (1-0) picked up the win, striking out one in the fifth.
Twins Minor Leaguer Spencer Steedley (0-1) was charged with a run on two hits and two walks in an inning to suffer the loss for Mesa. Solar Sox starter Tim Kiely (Angels) held the Saguaros to one hit over three frames.
Danny Wild is an editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.