When the Washington Nationals acquired Garrett Mock from the Arizona Diamondbacks along with left-hander Matt Chico in an August '06 trade for Livan Hernandez, the then-23-year-old right-hander drafted out of the University of Houston two years earlier when then-Nats' Asst. GM Mike Rizzo had been the Scouting Director in Arizona, was struggling at Double-A Tennessee in his third year in the D-Backs' system. Mock had struck out 117 (8.04 K/9), but walked 50 (3.44 BB/9) in 23 starts and 131.0 IP in which he had a (4-8) record, 4.95 ERA and 4.11 FIP before the trade and a year after he'd won 14 of 28 starts with the Class-A Advanced California League's Lancaster JetHawks, striking out 160 (8.3 K/9) and walking just 33 (1.7 K/9) in 174.1 IP. Mock's strong '05 campaign landed him on the D-Backs' December '05 Top 10 Prospects list, where he was ranked 7th overall as the second-best pitcher in the system behind right-hander Dustin Nippert as part of a D-Backs' organization which had, "taken a major step forward over the last three years under the direction of scouting director Mike Rizzo," as Kevin Goldstein wrote at the time for Baseball America.
MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo did some post-trade analysis in an August 8th '06 article entitled, "Chico, Mock bolster Nats system", in which the minor league writer noted Mock's "uneven" performances in which he'd given up high hit totals of 10.4 H/9 in '05 and 9.9 H/9 in '06 in spite of the "right-hander's stuff [which] has always graded out well, making the high hit totals even stranger." "His fastball can reach the mid-90s," Mr. Mayo wrote, "...and he's got a cutter, a slider and a curve to boot." The MLB.com writer predicted that both Mock and Chico could end up being, "back end starters when all is said and done," and though, "No one is infallible," Mr. Mayo said if Mr. Rizzo, "...sees something in this pair of starters he initially drafted, there's probably something to it.
The Nats' GM himself broke down Mock's issues in an article by MLB.com's Bill Ladson entitled, "Notes: Asst. GM high on additions":
"'[Mock] has to be more consistent with his location. That's the final hurdle for pitchers who end up really good," Rizzo said. "The stuff is there. They show flashes of it, but the inconsistency kind of fights them every so often. That happens to a lot of young pitchers.'"
Issues involving his surgically-repaired left knee limited Mock to 15 starts in 2007, in which he was (2-7) with a combined 5.12 ERA, 7.5 K's, 4.2 walks and 11.1 H/9 allowed in three stops at three levels (RK, A, AA) in the Nats' organization. After the '07 season, Mock was sent to the Arizona Fall League, where, as Washington Post writer Barry Svrluga noted in a November 8, 2007 article entitled, "Arizona Fall League: Garrett Mock", he would have to, "regain his standing in the organization, and [have] to be healthy," to make sure he was kept on the Nats' 40-Man Roster so he wouldn't be left unprotected in the Rule 5 Draft that December. Mock was (1-2) in 8 games and 7 starts in the AFL in '07, over which the right-hander led the so-called "finishing school" for the game's top prospects with 21 K's (7.18 K/9) in 26.1 IP, though he still walked 11 (3.80 BB/9) and gave up 26 hits (8.89 H/9).
Mock remained with the Nats, and though he started the '08 season with Triple-A Columbus, he made his MLB debut that June and bounced between the majors and minors, making two spot starts before he was called up in late July to work out of the bullpen, eventually making 3 starts and 26 appearances for the Nationals that year, in which he walked 23 (5.0 BB/9), and gave up 37 hits (8.1 H/9) and 20 runs, 19 earned with 46 K's (10.1 K/9), a 4.17 ERA, 104 ERA+ and 3.84 FIP in 41.0 major league IP.
After a strong Spring Training in 2009, Mock was one of the last two relievers cut to finalize the 25-Man Roster, (in part because he had options) but he was called up by the third week of April and remained with the Nats til mid-May, when he was sent back down and began starting again. After going (6-1) with a 2.59 ERA as a starter as MLB.com's Bill Ladson reported in a 7/19/09 article entitled, "'D' does Mock no favors in Nats' defeat", Mock returned to the Majors in mid-July, and pitched strictly as a starter, going (3-8) with 7.6 K/9 collected, 4.2 BB/9 and 11.26 H/9 allowed.
When Mock was selected as the Nats' 5th starter at the end of the team's 2010 Spring Training, after battling a recovering Scott Olsen for the final spot in the Nats' rotation, MLB.com's Bill Ladson wrote in an article entitled, "Mock declared Nationals' fifth starter", that a source told him it was, "...because of his potential as a starter. The team believes he will one day become a No.3 starter," but as Mr. Ladson noted, "Mock was told that he was on a short leash and the club would quickly call up Olsen if he didn't produce on the mound." Mock made just one start, walking 5 and giving up 3 hits and 2 ER in 3.1 IP in which he threw 84 pitches against the Mets before he was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse. Mock's struggles were frustating for Nats' Pitching Coach Steve McCatty, who told Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore in a Nationals Journal post entitled, "Garrett Mock still needs to master 'Baseball 101,' plus morning links", that, "'Other than Strasburg,'" Mock, then-27, "'...probably has the best overall stuff of anybody here,'" but was still inconsistent and continued, "'[grappling] with 'all the things that [are] Baseball 101 for pitchers,' McCatty said -- getting ahead, pitching to contact, executing pitches."
After Mock's rough first start of 2010, the right-hander complained that he had been unable to grip the ball that night, and had felt a "numbness" in his hand which he'd first attributed to the relatively cold weather. Mock was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse, but ended up on the 15-Day DL a week later with what was initially described as a "nerve injury" in his neck. Mock reportedly felt, "tingling in his hand", at times, as Penn-Live.com writer Geoff Morrow wrote in a mid-August article entitled, "Garrett Mock continues recovery from neck surgery, makes rehab start with Harrisburg Senators", which caused him to, "occasionally...lose feeling altogether on the mound and unleash an errant pitch." Mock would eventually have surgery on his neck to repair what was diagnosed as a ruptured disc in his neck.
Mock returned in early August and made six starts in the Nats' system in which he gave up 30 hits and 13 ER in 27.0 IP, telling MASNSports.com's Byron Kerr before his first rehab start in an article entitled, "Mock ready to get back in the game", that in hindsight, having fully-recovered from the injury and surgery," his hand, "'...feels brand new now. I didn't know how bad it was.'" D.C. GM Mike Rizzo said recently, in an interview with the D.C. press corps that Mock, "should be 100% ready to go at the beginning of Spring Training," and will, "compete for a rotation spot." Mock would have to be considered a long shot to make the 2011 rotation, however, and his name is left out of most conversations about the starting rotation.
In the November '07 article by Washington Post writer Barry Svrluga quoted above, the WaPost writer speculated that a good Arizona Fall League and a good start to the season could get Mock up to Triple-A during the 2007 campaign, but for the right-hander, who was about to turn 25, Mr. Svrluga said, it's, "Time to get going." Heading into the 2011 season, the need to get going is even more urgent if Mock's to live up to the potential the Nats' general manager and pitching coach have seen in him. Seven seasons after his selection in the 3rd Round of the '04 Draft, has Mock run out of time? A year after making the starting rotation out of Spring Training, what lies ahead for Garrett Mock?