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New pitch has G-Braves' Gearrin on track to majors

Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips
 Cory Gearrin is a sidearm relief pitcher for the Gwinnett Braves. 

Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips Cory Gearrin is a sidearm relief pitcher for the Gwinnett Braves. 

LAWRENCEVILLE — The Braves brought Gene Garber to spring training to tutor Peter Moylan on a change up and that has certainly paid off for the Atlanta reliever.

The real beneficiary of getting to work with the former Braves closer was another sidearm pitcher, though.

THE GEARRIN FILE

Who: Cory Gearrin

Team: Gwinnett Braves

Position: Relief pitcher

Age: Turned 24 on April 14

Birthplace: Chattanooga

Throws, bats: right

Size: 6 foot 3, 200 pounds

How acquired: 4th-round draft choice in 200

Colleges: Young Harris and Mercer

Career highlights: Saved 19 games last season, 17 for Myrtle Beach in the Class A Advanced Carolina League. … Had a 1.84 ERA in 27 games for the Pelicans and a 2.84 ERA in 20 games with Class AA Mississippi. … Came into this season with 161 strikeouts in 127 innings.

Stats this season: Has a 2.38 ERA in nine appearances covering 111/3 innings. … Has struck out 15, but walked nine. … All three runs against him came in his second appearance of the season against Charlotte. … Lefties are batting just .176 against him.

Moylan worked with Garber to fine tune a pitch that would solidify his spot in the majors by making him more effective against left-handed hitters.

Cory Gearrin, not a well-know name in the Atlanta farm system previously, picked up a pitch that has put him potentially on the fast track to the big leagues.

"He's thrown some changeups where the bottom has fallen out," Gwinnett manager Dave Brundage said of his 24-year-old reliever.

Gearrin, a fourth-round draft choice in 2008, hasn't allowed a run in his past seven appearances for the G-Braves and has 15 strikeouts in 111/3 innings.

The chance to work with Garber, which was a surprise, has certainly paid off for Gearrin, who was already in Florida only because of an early camp for minor leaguers.

"You can't put a price on a chance to work with someone like that," Gearrin said. "It was the first time I'd ever had an opportunity to work with a sidearm pitcher at all and it helped me so much."

Garber, who had 218 career saves, was a master of the changeup, a pitch side-arming right-handers need to get left-handed hitters out consistently. Gearrin is still working on perfecting the pitch, but at least he has it to call on.

"Now he has three pitches and the changeup is going to be such a great pitch to get hitters off his fasttball," Brundage said. "He's even throwing it to right-handed hitters."

And it's working, too. Left-handed hitters, once a problem, are batting just .176 against the Chattanooga native.

The last few years have been a whirlwind for Gearrin, who spent two years at Young Harris College in the Georgia mountains before going to Mercer as a mostly unheralded prospect.

He didn't stay that way long, though.

Gearrin got a chance to pitch a summer in the Cape Cod League prior to arriving at Mercer, which helped his development. Then he was an instant difference maker for the Bears.

Gearrin picked up two early saves against Miami, striking out six in three hitless innings. Scouts immediately took notice.

An all-conference selection, Gearrin led the Atlantic Sun with 13 saves and was taken by the Braves — his favorite team growing up — on the first day of the draft.

Less than three years later, he's just a step from the majors and pitching well despite only a half season above Class A previously.

Despite not being on the 40-man major league roster or being an official spring training invitee, Gearrin got into six Grapefruit League games with the Braves and posted a 3.60 ERA with three strikeouts to one walk in five innings.

"I didn't know much about him before, but I like him," Braves manager Bobby Cox said in Florida. "It looks like he's got a good arm and those sidearm pitchers can be tough out of the pen."

Getting to appear in big leagues games certainly speeded up Gearrin's learning curve.

"It helped my confidence to be able to face big league hitters and hold my own," Gearrin said. "It was great to get into those games. I didn't expect it.

Until spring training it appeared that Gearrin would start this season back at Class AA Mississippi, where he ended last year.

"I wouldn't say that I was surprised to be able to come to Gwinnett, but I was definitely excited," Gearrin said. "You always want to be moving up and it's nice to get to pitch close to home where people can see you."

The next stop, Turner Field, is just 35 miles from Coolray Field. Gearrin is still not a finished product, though.

Control remains an issue, with nine walks. But with a developing changeup to go with his fastball and slider, Gearrin has a full compliment of pitches.

"Now that he has the three pitches, Cory is right on the same path as Moylan," Brundage said.