The path to the major leagues is different than the one he expected, but Mercer product Cory Gearrin has re-established himself as a major league relief pitcher.
But instead of doing it for the Atlanta Braves, the team he grew up rooting for and who drafted and nurtured him, he’s working for the San Francisco Giants. Gearrin has become an indispensable member of the Giants’ relief corps.
This week during a four-game series at Turner Field, he pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings in two appearances against the Braves and struck out two of the four batters he faced.
He has pitched in 25 of the team’s 56 games and has compiled a 1-0 record with a 2.78 and one save. In 22 2/3 innings, he has struck out 15 and walked five.
After coming back from Tommy John surgery, Gearrin is healthy again. His unorthodox sidearm motion is still there, but it has been re-worked to be less stressful.
“My slot has always been the same, my delivery is a little more tilted,” Gearrin said. “I cleaned a lot of stuff up to take the pressure off my arm. There’s a lot of stuff I worked on during the rehab process. You’ve got 12 months to try to figure out what happened and get stronger so it doesn’t happen again.”
Gearrin, born and raised in Chattanooga, Tennessee, came up through the Atlanta farm system and got his first taste of the big leagues when he made 18 appearances in 2011.
In 2012 he split time with Triple-A Gwinnett and Atlanta, where he compiled a 1.80 ERA in 22 games. He had 20 strikeouts and only five walks in 20 innings and had established himself as a legitimate setup man.
By 2013 he was a bullpen fixture. He spent the entire season in Atlanta and wen 2-1 with a 3.77 ERA in 37 games.
More of the same was expected in 2014. But during his final appearance of spring training in Lakeland, Gearrin felt something wrong in his arm. His suspicions were on target; he required Tommy John surgery and missed the entire season. The Braves released him in 2014.
“That was my last time getting to pitch in a Braves uniform, so it was good to come back and pitch well here,” he said.
Gearrin had plenty of offers, but he chose to sign with the Giants, who were willing to show some patience as he came back from the injury. He missed the first month and spent the season in Triple-A, where he was 2-2 with a 2.72 ERA in 33 games.
Gearrin was recalled in September and appeared in seven games, posting a 4.91 ERA.
He made the roster in the spring and has become a valuable member of the team’s deep bullpen.
The Giants made their only appearance of the year at Turner Field, and Gearrin left plenty of names on the pass list.
“After going through what I went through injury-wise, to be able to pitch in front of my family and friends was great,” he said.
His father, Tim, a baseball coach in his hometown in Rhea County — located about halfway between Chattanooga and Knoxville — brought his entire middle school team to the game Wednesday.
“They were district champions and that was their treat, getting to come down for the game,” he said.