Rays Reclamation Projects: Ryan Garko

By David Hill

There was a time, back from 2007 until 2009, when Ryan Garko was a legitimate major league player. While not a power hitter, Garko was able to hit the ball to all fields, putting together a .278 batting average with 68 doubles, 48 home runs, and 202 RBIs. He did not strike out very often, striking out in only 15.5% of his career late appearances, but he also did not walk much either, with only 7.1% of his plate appearances ending in a free pass.

However, upon leaving the Cleveland Indians via trade on July 27, 2009, Garko suddenly lost his ability to hit. In his 78 games with the Tribe, he had put together a .280 batting average to go along with 10 doubles, 11 home runs, and 39 RBI. Yet, with the Giants, Garko only hit .235 with 3 doubles and 2 home runs in 40 games. 2010 was even worse, as he played in 15 games for the Texas Rangers, and only produced three singles in 33 at bats. Garko was optioned to AAA, and spent the rest of the season with the Oklahoma City RedHawks, where he continued to struggle, managing to hit only .235 with 12 home runs over 93 games.

Unable to secure a major league invite, Garko signed with the Samsung Lions in the Korean Baseball Organization. However, after an injury, he was released in July. This past March, he signed with the Long Island Ducks in the independent Atlantic League, and acquitted himself rather well, batting .450 and leading the league with a 1.219 OPS. This caught the attention of the Rays, and he was signed to a minor league contract on May 14th.

Presently playing for the Montgomery Biscuits, Garko has put up solid numbers, producing a .302/.393/.449 slash line with 8 home runs and 38 RBI in 60 games. Given the ongoing problems that Carlos Pena has had offensively this year, Garko may end up being a September call up, with a chance to show whether or not he has anything left.

At age 31, Ryan Garko still has time to potentially be a productive player. As the rosters expand, he may get that chance.