Just got off a conference call with Ryan Garko (shown above, right, celebrating with Cleveland teammate Grady Sizemore after the Indians beat the Yankees in the 2007 Division Series). Garko said he signed with the Mariners for a few main reasons: He likes the direction the team is headed, he wanted to return to the American League, and he likes the role he’ll have here.
“Going through the process and studying what teams were doing, and what Jack (Zduriencik) is doing in Seattle, I realized how how much I wanted to be there,” he said. “I believe in the moves they made in the offseason, and where the team is going and the roster that’s being built. I’m excited to be a part of it.”
A few other teams had interest in him, once he was non-tendered by the Giants, Garko said.
“My wife and I sat down and talked to my agent about different aspects of teams we might have had a chance go with. The important thing was finding a role on a team that I felt played to my strength. I wanted to return to the American League; I felt it was a better fit over there. Obviously, I have experience playing in the American League. I know the pitchers and stadiums. That was important, but Seattle, they’re having a great offseason – we’re having great offseason. I want to play for a team with a chance to win. I had a taste of the playoffs in ’07 with Cleveland. It’s every player’s dream to have that opportunity, I felt I would have that here.”
As far as catching, yes, it did come up in his talks with Zduriencik, who envisions Garko as a potential third catcher to give manager Don Wakamatsu more versatility. Garko said he’s coming to spring training prepared to work on his catching skills. It’s a position he’s pretty much dropped the last couple of years after the Indians converted him to first base in 2005.
“I caught all the way to Triple-A, and really would have kept doing it except Victor Martinez signed a five-year deal (with the Indians),” he said. “I felt it (switching positions) was my best path to the big leagues. It’s there. Jack and I talked about it. Just in terms of giving Don the opportunity to make moves in games, it’s important for us to have that third catcher. It just gives us more versatility and I think it can help the team.”
Garko said he hasn’t talked to Wakamatsu yet about his role, “but it’s pretty obvious I’m here to help against left-handed pitching, whether as a first baseman or DH, and be around to catch if the situation comes up. I know I can. I think the right-handed bat, it’s important right now.”
Finally, Garko said he was pleased to be re-joining former Cleveland teammates Cliff Lee and Franklin Gutierrez.
“I was pretty surprised when Cliff was traded back to the American League. He and I played together quite awhile. I’m excited to play behind him and with him again, and watch him pitch every five days. He’s the best; he works fast. It will be great to play with Franklin again, too. We came up together through Double-A and Triple-A after he came over from the Dodgers, and we came up to the majors together. He’s big-time now, I guess. I can’t wait to see what the new Guti is like. I’m proud of him, and I’m excited to play with him again. He’s a really dynamic player, and a good guy.”
(Photo by McClatchy Newspapers)