After memorable grand slam, Garrett makes case to stay

The sting of the Nationals’ 10-5 loss to the Diamondbacks still loomed over the entire home clubhouse Tuesday night, but Stone Garrett couldn’t help but light up when asked about the grand slam he clubbed way back in the first inning off a team and a pitcher he knew all too well.

“It felt freaking good,” the 27-year-old said, his smile growing wide. “That’s my best friend pitching. And your old team. Keibert (Ruiz) just hit two home runs off his old team (last week at Dodger Stadium), so it feels good. Revenge game.”

Designated for assignment by Arizona last November, then signed by the Nats two weeks later, Garrett already faced his former team last month at Chase Field. And he already faced Tommy Henry, the 25-year-old left-hander who became one of his closest friends and a regular roommate through their respective treks up the organizational ladder.

This, though, meant far more. With the bases loaded in the bottom of the first, Garrett launched a changeup from his good buddy deep to left, the ball clearing the fence for the first grand slam of his career and the first grand slam by any Nationals player at home since Yan Gomes on June 15, 2021.

“It felt like a good pitch,” Henry told reporters in the visitors’ clubhouse. “Yeah, it’s unfortunate it was him. It’s unfortunate in any circumstance, but unfortunate it was him because I probably won’t hear the end of it now.”

Garrett said he didn’t make any eye contact with Henry as he rounded the bases, and he didn’t text him immediately after the game. But he admitted there would certainly be some in-person bragging when the two get together for breakfast this morning. Not to mention for years to come.

“That’s my No. 1 (homer in my career) for sure,” he said. “That’s not even close. Ten years from now when we’re on the golf course, we’ll look back at that. And I’ve got the ball. So that’s definitely No. 1. Sorry, Tommy.”

Garrett has been trying to make the most of the opportunities he’s been given by Nationals manager Davey Martinez, who has used him as the right-handed portion of a left field platoon with veteran Corey Dickerson. Garrett’s overall numbers (.267/.318/.376, two homers, 14 RBIs in 33 games) don’t burst off the page, but he’s been quite productive against lefties, batting .289/.353/.467 with both of his homers and 13 of his RBIs.

That has perhaps left him in an advantageous position as the Nationals near a tough decision.

With Victor Robles close to going on a minor league rehab assignment, the final step before the center fielder returns from a back ailment that landed him on the injured list more than a month ago, the Nats are going to need to remove someone from the active roster. The choice seemingly comes down to either Garrett (who didn’t make the Opening Day roster) or Alex Call (who won the fourth outfielder’s job in spring training and took over as the starting center field once Robles was hurt).

Garrett’s overall offensive numbers are better than Call’s numbers (.218/.316/.310, three homers, 20 RBIs). But Call’s defense is superior, and he’s a better backup in center field than anyone else on the roster.

That decision is probably still at least a week away. Until then, Garrett can only try to keep making the most of the playing opportunities he continues to get.

“I just do what I can do,” he said. “When that time comes for them to make a decision, it’s out of my hands. If I play well and stay up here, great. And if I have to go down there and do what I need to do, that’s fine. … Once you realize it’s out of your hands, you just go play.”

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