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The road back for Reed Garrett

Washington reliever was used as a starter and reliever at VMI, then pitched in Japan two years before joining the Nationals ...

MLB: JUN 14 Braves at Nationals Photo by John McCreary/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

WASHINGTON - Marlin Ikenberry recalls watching Reed Garrett pitch in the Commonwealth Games of Virginia prior to his senior year at Mills Godwin High near Richmond.

At the time, Ikenberry was the head coach at VMI in Lexington, Virginia, and the annual event was held in Salem.

“He was an 85 to 87 mile-per-hour right-hander, very athletic,” Ikenberry said Thursday of Garrett. “He threw a lot of strikes; at the time he threw three pitches for strikes. After the Commonwealth Games, he committed pretty quickly to VMI.”

“I used him as a wedge guy as a freshman,” added Ikenberry, now the coach at JMU. “He really developed a second breaking ball; earlier in his career, he was more of a fastball-changeup guy. He threw the first no-hitter I was a part of, against Lafayette in 2014 in his junior year.”

MLB: JUN 14 Braves at Nationals Photo by John McCreary/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After three years at VMI, Garrett was drafted by the Texas Rangers in the 16th round in 2014.

He made his Major League debut with the Detroit Tigers in 2019 - and three years later he returned to the majors on Tuesday with Washington.

Garrett, 29, made his first appearance with the Nationals on Tuesday and threw two scoreless innings out of the bullpen in the loss to the Braves.

“He threw strikes,” manager Davey Martinez said of Garrett’s debut with the Nationals.

“They told me he could get the ball up to 95-97, threw a couple balls a little bit better than that ... he was a little amped up, but he was in the strike zone, which was really nice. He’s got good movement on his fastball. Slider was a little bit different than what I saw in Spring Training, a little bit harder, a little bit more bite, so it was a good two innings for him.”

It was his first appearance in the majors since 2019 when he pitched in 13 games as a reliever for the Tigers.

For part of the past two seasons, he pitched overseas, in Japan.

In his first 14 games in The Show, he has only pitched in one game his team won. Detroit was 1-12 in the games he appeared in three seasons ago.

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Matt LeCroy, the Rochester manager, said Garrett was throwing in the upper 90s with the Red Wings earlier this year.

“He was in the upper 80s and low 90s when he pitched for us at VMI,” Ikenberry said. “He is one of those guys where I thought he would develop after college more than in college.

“I thought his ceiling was very high, with his development. I told people that when he was getting drafted.”

Garrett was signed by the Nationals prior to this season. He pitched in 22 games with Rochester before getting called to Washington.

His wife is a former swimmer at JMU, according to Ikenberry. Garrett’s brother played at Division III Lynchburg, also in Virginia.