Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher Amir Garrett met Bryson Stott through Stott’s older brother, Brennan. Brennan and Garrett went to middle school together in Las Vegas, and became close friends. Long before Bryson became a 2019 first-round pick of the Phillies and one of their top prospects, he tagged along with the two middle-schoolers. Garrett, 29, got the impression back then that Bryson was a goofball, and says that more than a decade later, not much has changed.

One doesn’t need to look too far to find evidence of that. Stott, 24, has been known to do things like put ranch dressing on his ice cream, and post a picture of Garrett washing his car on Instagram, with the caption: “free washes to Vegas people courtesy of Amir Garrett.” But the relentless teasing does not go one way.

“I’m always messing with Bryson,” said Garrett, a left-hander who is preparing for his sixth major-league season. “Before he got big-time, he was always at my house, almost every day. He didn’t really come over that much this offseason. So I’m going to have to give him some [flack] for that. But yeah, he’s like a little brother to me, man. I can’t wait for him... He has got a bright future ahead.”

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Their relationship has evolved quite a bit since Garrett’s middle-school days. It began to really blossom when Stott was in high school. Garrett, who used to play with Stott’s then-high school coach, returned to throw bullpens for Stott’s team, and a rapport developed from there. They started working out at the same gym in Las Vegas, and before long, Stott, a shortstop, was catching Garrett himself — without gear on.

“He would catch my flat grounds and stuff,” said Garrett, a 22nd-round pick in 2011 who is an imposing figure at 6-foot-5, 239 pounds. “He took a couple off the shins, too. He’s definitely a trouper.”

Stott, who goes 6-3, 200, confirmed that he got some nasty bruises from those throwing sessions.

“His ball is crazy,” he said. “You never know what it’s doing. Once he would get going, I would go down like a catcher and try to catch like that. I’ve taken plenty of balls off the shins, like he said. I blocked some, too, which I probably shouldn’t be doing, but I was just trying to help him out.”

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Stott’s close relationship with reigning NL MVP and Las Vegas native Bryce Harper has been well-chronicled. But less has been written about his longtime relationship with Garrett, who also hails from Las Vegas, and lives there in the offseason. While Harper has provided Stott with the perspective of an elite big-league hitter, Garrett has provided him with a perspective just as valuable — that of an elite big-league pitcher, who expects to one day be facing him from a mound 60 feet, 6 inches away.

Garrett doesn’t anticipate seeing Stott too much, since they’re both left-handed, but he says when he does see him, it’ll be a quick at-bat.

“I’m going to strike him out,” Garrett said. “Obviously.”

Said Stott: “One time when I faced him in high school, he hit me. It didn’t feel very good. As long as he doesn’t hit me, we’ll be fine.”

All joking aside, Stott says catching Garrett on a regular basis and understanding how he approaches different types of hitters has been helpful, especially as he enters what could be a new stage of his career. When they’re watching baseball together, sometimes Garrett will walk Stott through his mindset in a particular at-bat, explaining what he would do differently, and why.

“He’ll explain what pitches he’ll throw where,” Stott said. “Sometimes we’ll watch a pitcher go for something similar, and then he’ll throw a stupid pitch and give up a home run. Amir will explain why it’s stupid and why he can’t do that. He’s one of the best in the world, he knows how to get hitters out.”

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While catching Garrett, Stott will often focus on his movements — where the pitcher is stepping, for example, and what angles his arm is coming from — and correlate all of that with whatever pitch crosses the plate.

Garrett, in turn, has noticed a change in Stott’s mindset at the plate. He’s not just hitting as well as he ever has; he also thinking like a big-league hitter.

“He looks at the bigger picture,” Garrett said. “He’s a minor-leaguer right now, but he has big-league thoughts. He’ll just like sit there and we’re pitching and stuff like that, and he’ll say, ‘I’m not swinging at that pitch. I’m thinking like this and that,’ and I listen to him talk. I’m like, ‘Alright, Bryson, I see you.’ His maturity and his mindset is beyond his years.

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“I feel like if the pandemic hadn’t happened, he probably would have been in the big leagues last year.”

Once the lockout ends, Stott might not have to wait for much longer. Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has told him to be prepared to go to spring training with the mindset of winning a spot on the big-league roster despite having played just 10 games in triple A. But when he does make that debut, and he ends up facing the Reds for the first time, you can be sure to hear a lot of chirping from a certain left-handed reliever.

“He’s a crazy guy when he’s on the field,” Stott said of Garrett. “He doesn’t even say, ‘Amir is on the field.’ He says, ‘AG is on the field.’ He lets you know he’s competing, and I’m sure he’ll let me know, too.”

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