CLEARWATER, Fla. — Kyle Garlick drove last month from his home in Southern California to Arizona, officially ending the first offseason of his career that did not include working a second job.
His signing bonus was just $1,000 in 2015 when the Dodgers drafted him in the 28th round, so Garlick spent the next four winters working to fund his baseball dream. But this year was different. The outfielder reached the majors last season with the Dodgers, allowing him to not work in a bar this winter or deliver doors to construction sites.
Garlick, finally, could focus solely on baseball before arriving at Dodgers spring training in Glendale, Ariz. Perhaps an offseason without odd jobs could help him get more than just a taste of the majors this year.
“Then I got designated for assignment within 30 minutes of getting to my Airbnb,” Garlick said Sunday morning.
Five days later, Garlick was traded to the Phillies. His major-league dream was still alive and there’s a path in Clearwater for the power hitter to open the season in the majors. Andrew McCutchen’s injury creates opportunity for Garlick either in left field or as a right-handed bench bat. It’s a great opportunity, Garlick said.
But those five days were a bit uneasy as Garlick awaited his fate. Being traded is never easy, but being moved on the eve of spring training is even more challenging.
Garlick planned to work out at the Dodgers’ facility, but wasn’t allowed since he was removed from the roster when they designated him for assignment. And his Airbnb, which he rented with teammate Chris Taylor, did not have a gym. But a triple-A teammate — Jake Peter — moved to Arizona in the offseason and his apartment complex had a fitness center. Finally, Garlick had a bit of luck.
“It was actually a nice gym. I could get all my stuff in there. I think I went over there three or four times,” Garlick said. “It was kind of a wild week.”
Garlick flew to Clearwater on a Saturday night, five days after arriving in Arizona, and joined the Phillies that Sunday. Taylor, who was the co-MVP of the 2017 NLCS, said he would pay Garlick’s share of the rent on the Airbnb as his friend’s baseball dream took him to Florida, where his life is still a bit unsettled.
He’s staying in the team hotel this spring and his car is still in Arizona, forcing him to bum rides to and from the ballpark from Cole Irvin and Garrett Cleavinger, Garlick’s teammates at the University of Oregon.
“Saving some money on Uber rides,” Garlick said.
Garlick homered 23 times last season in triple A and posted a 1.057 OPS in 81 games as he crushed the ball with the Oklahoma City Dodgers. He had two stints in the majors, mostly as a bench player, but his power seemed to translate. Garlick hit three homers and recorded a .521 slugging percentage in 53 plate appearances.
Garlick’s taste of the majors provided a glimpse of what he could do.
“I think I proved to myself and to others that I could play in the big leagues,” Garlick said. “It was a small sample size and I still have a lot to prove, but I think I showed briefly that I can do it. Hopefully, I get a better opportunity to show that I can do it more consistently and a larger sample size.”
He hit his first major-league homer in June at Dodger Stadium, just 30 miles west of O’Donovan’s, the Irish pub in downtown Pomona, Calif., where Garlick worked as a barback in the winter as a minor-leaguer. He saved his money from his offseason jobs to afford his car payment and rent during the minor-league season. There were no shortcuts on his way to Chavez Ravine.
The Phillies seem to have four outfielders — Bryce Harper, Jay Bruce, Adam Haseley, and Roman Quinn — locked into the opening-day roster with McCutchen slated to start the season on the injured list. But their five-man bench could use a right-handed hitter, especially a slugger like Garlick. McCutchen and Garlick are the only right-handed hitting outfielders on the 40-man roster. Garlick can hit his way this spring to opening day.
His life was hectic three weeks ago and it’s still not completely settled. But on March 26, Garlick could be in Miami on opening day with the Phillies. Last month’s stress would be worth it.