Stone Garrett was in the midst of a mini-slump (0 for 9) at the plate, but on a run overall in August (16 for 50, six doubles, two home runs, .320/.379/.560 line in 16 games and 60 plate appearances) when he suffered a season-ending ankle injury on a play at the wall in right field in Yankee Stadium on August 23rd.
“He’s been unbelievable,” manager Davey Martinez told reporters of the run Garrett was on after he’d suffered the injury in NY. “Off the field, on the field, he’s a special kid, he really is.
“I hope we get some good news, and that he’s going to be okay, and that we can put this behind us. But he was hurting pretty good.”
Seeing Garrett go down, right when he was getting an opportunity to start on a regular basis in the Nationals’ outfield, was particularly disappointing.
“You never want to see anybody get hurt, and when he went down like that, just my heart dropped,” Martinez said.
“He was out there wincing. He was pretty hurt. Hopefully, he’s okay. It’s his left leg. I know he’s getting X-rays. We don’t know anything yet, so we’ll know more when they get back.
“But it was tough. He’s one of our clubhouse favorites. I love the kid, so I hope everything is okay.”
In addition to his improvement on the field, the skipper said, Garrett had, over the course of his first season in D.C., after debuting in the majors as a 26-year-old in 2022 in Arizona and signing on in Washington over the winter, become a leader in the clubhouse.
“He has that presence about him. Very soft-spoken ... but he is one of those guys who like to have fun, keep everybody loose, but a great teammate,” Martinez said.
To have him suffer an injury right as he was finally getting a shot to play every day was especially cruel, but did not diminish the work he’d done to improve, in his manager’s opinion.
“I challenged him early on to be a better outfielder. He’s done it,” Martinez said.
“I challenged him to put the ball in play more, he’s done that, drive in more runs.
“Everything I’ve asked him to do, he went out of his way to go and try to get it done, and I love guys like that.
“So for me, he meant a lot not only to me, but to this clubhouse, to this locker room, to the fans, he’s one of the fan favorites, I know, he means a lot to us.”
Garrett went on the IL with a fractured left fibula, and the nature of the injury raised some questions about what the future held.
He finished the season at .269/.343/.457, with 17 doubles, nine home runs, 82 Ks, and 26 walks in 89 games and 271 PAs on the year.
As of early December, Garrett was hitting and running again.
“I started hitting last week,” Garrett said in an interview on MASN’s Hot Stove Show.
“I’ve been running on the treadmill for about a month now, so I’ve been trying to incorporate some explosive movements. I’m feeling pretty good.”
So, if healthy, and back to 100%, where does Garrett fit in the Nats’ plans for 2024?
“He’s coming along and he’s exercising and rehabbing,” GM Mike Rizzo said at the Winter Meetings in the first week of December.
How will the player and club know when he’s good to go at full speed again?
“We’ll take all the measurements and all the physical testing,” Rizzo explained, “… and then the eye test: Is the stride the same? Is the stride length the same? Is he favoring it at all?
“And then it comes down to — if he passes all those tests, when you have to go from rehabbing to working out, to instinctively, [at] game speed, making it work, that’s often when you tell, and he’ll know when he does it with no fear.”
Rizzo too praised Garrett, and the work the outfielder put in to get to where he was before the injury ended his season.
“He improved greatly, I thought,” the GM said. “We brought him in there to be — really — my thought was for him to play against left-handed pitching and maybe a defensive replacement in left field, and he took that and ran with it and then Davey started getting him in there against some right-handed pitching and did well there too. I thought he was on the verge of really becoming an all-around player for us that definitely could be in the plans for the future.”