View Full Version : Richie Gardner named Reds top minor leaguer

01-26-2005, 12:12 PM
After a year and a half in the system, he's already the team's top minor leaguer.

If he keeps it up, he'll be pitching in Cincy sometime in late 2005/early 2006.


Gardner is Reds' top minor leaguer
By Todd Lorenz / MLB.com

CINCINNATI -- It wasn't long ago that Richie Gardner was wondering if he'd ever play baseball again, so winning the 2004 Sheldon "Chief" Bender Award as the Cincinnati Reds' Minor League Player of the Year will mean just a little bit more.
When Reds director of player development Tim Naehring presents the 23-year-old right-hander with the Award, it will be the culmination of an unbelievable season that followed a remarkable comeback.

"It means a whole lot for the organization to recognize me," Gardner said of the Award. "It shows they have faith in me, and saw what I did during the year. That's big for me because two years ago I was in college and when I was hurt, I didn't know if I was ever going to going to play again, so now I'm just like 'wow'. It means so much. To me it's a really big deal because I'm truly lucky to be where I am right now."

That's not just the usual athlete-speak either.

Although Gardner's injury occurred on the field when he was playing his sophomore season at Santa Rosa Jr. College, it was much more serious than the usual elbow or rotator cuff.

"I was at practice and I got hit in the head doing a bunting drill," Gardner said. "I was in the hospital for a week. I was having trouble speaking, putting words together and mumbling. I'd had mono just before that and was just getting my strength back, but [after getting hit in the head] I wasn't able to work out for a couple months because they were I might have blood clot and didn't want me to have a brain aneurism. I'm lucky I even got to play again."

So are the Reds.

Gardner transferred to the University of Arizona in 2003, where he went 9-3 with a 4.49 ERA in 16 starts for the Wildcats before being drafted by Cincinnati in the sixth round of the 2003 draft.

He signed late and began his professional career by going with the Reds high Single-A Potomac affiliate where he quickly earned a promotion by going 8-3 with a 2.50 ERA.

"I thing the biggest difference is the wood bat," he explained. "You can get in on hitters more than you can in college with the metal bats because if you saw 'em off they still get a base hit. With wood if you get inside, they don't have surface area and you only get about half of them that end up base hits. That helped me out a lot."

It didn't stop once he was promoted.

In 11 starts at Double-A Chattanooga, Gardner went 5-2 with a 2.53 ERA. Even more impressive, though, was his strikeout to walk ratio. In 156 2/3 innings, Gardner fanned 139 batters and walked just 26.

"I've always been that kind of pitcher," Gardner said. "You know when you're younger you just want to throw hard, but when I was in junior college I had a coach that preached keeping it down and getting ground balls. That's when I developed as pitcher. I realized that if a guy gets a hit and I can get a ground ball, I can get a double play. So I've always been taught to have guys hit the ball. I've always been told to let them hit it. Even really good hitters get out seven of 10 times, so you might as well go after them."

Of course, it still takes good stuff to put up the kind of numbers Gardner did in his first professional season and the Reds are plenty confident that Gardner's can take him a long way.

"Mechanically, his arm works really clean and he has the ability to throw three pitches for strikes," Naehring said. "He has simple mechanics, a sound delivery and can command the baseball very well. Obviously coming into pro ball in first year to do what he did at high Class A and then have success at Double-A is a big-time credit to him.

"He's got a good feel for pitching. He's not going to blow anybody away, but he's got command to both sides of the plate and the biggest thing is the no-fear type of attitude he takes to the mound."

If Gardner can keep posting the numbers like he did in his first season, it won't be long until he's taking that attitude to a Major League mound.