UO Alums Reunite In Philadelphia
For the first time in their respective Major League careers, Kyle Garlick and Cole Irvin made an opening day roster this year, just one of many reasons neither Oregon baseball alum will ever forget this strangest of seasons in The Show.
When this season began, Irvin and Garlick were lockering next to each other with the Philadelphia Phillies, albeit with a 10-foot gap between stalls due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Irvin made his season debut on July 26, suffered a loss that had him eager to get back on the mound as soon as possible, then had to endure a nine-day wait along with Garlick and the rest of his teammates while the Phillies were quarantined because of their exposure to opening-series opponent Miami, which suffered an outbreak of COVID-19 on its roster in the wake of the series.
Garlick finally made his season debut on Wednesday of this week, was hitless in two at-bats, then was reassigned to Philadelphia's alternate training site Thursday when teams had to reduce their rosters from 30 to 28 active players.
To say this season hasn't gone as planned for Garlick or Irvin would be an understatement. But they're soaking up the experience regardless.
"We're enjoying the moment as much as we can," Irvin said in an interview last week, on what ended up being the first day of the Phillies' extended break from games.
Garlick and Irvin both made their Major League debuts last season. Garlick, who had an .852 OPS at Oregon in 2012 before finishing his career at Cal Poly, broke through with the Dodgers, who selected him in the 28th round of the 2015 draft before trading him to Philadelphia this offseason. Irvin, a freshman all-American for the Ducks in 2013, was picked by the Phillies in the fifth round of the 2016 draft after being an all-Pac-12 pitcher at Oregon that spring.
Garlick hit .250 with three homers for the Dodgers in 53 plate appearances last summer, and Irvin made three starts for the Phillies among his 15 appearances in 2019. Both players hoped to cement roles on Philadelphia's 2020 roster, before everyone's hopes for this year were thrown into disarray by the pandemic.
A 60-game season that started in late July. Games with no fans. Unexpected schedule changes due to viral exposure. When the Phillies played their opener on July 24, and Garlick and Irvin could officially celebrate making an opening day roster for the first time, the mix of emotions was surreal.
"It was very different," Garlick said. "Obviously I was super excited, first opening day, back to being on the field. I can't really explain it. It was just different."
Irvin, who recently bought a home in Charlotte with his fiance, was able to fill his summer prior to baseball's delayed start by working at a facility there with other pro athletes. For Garlick, his fitness regimen involved "a lot of home workouts."
This year had already been an odd one for Garlick after his trade from the Dodgers to the Phillies, one of many dominos that fell in the wake of the Mookie Betts trade between Los Angeles and Boston. The Dodgers designated Garlick for assignment, and the Phillies snatched him up in a trade.
"I was bummed I got DFA'd," Garlick said, "but then when I got picked up it was all the excitement of a new team, new coaches, new everything. They welcomed me in really quick."
Garlick and Irvin overlapped at Oregon for one season, in 2013, Irvin's freshman all-America season, when Garlick was limited to 10 games by injury. They enjoyed the chance to be teammates again with Philadelphia this season, despite all its strangeness.
Both players expressed confidence in the protocols laid out to keep players as healthy as possible this season, even though a few teams have dealt with outbreaks. They've greeted games with no fans in the stands with bemusement, and acknowledged that there's a little more pressure on every game when the regular season is only 60 games.
In some ways, baseball is already in the thick of a pennant race. And yet, Garlick said, with no fans watching, "It's almost like we're still in (preseason) camp, except we're playing teams with a different jersey on."
No, nothing about the 2020 season is normal. But for Garlick and Irvin, it has provided a chance to play baseball in the big leagues. And neither Oregon alum is ever going to take that for granted.