The Lincoln Saltdogs re-signed right-handed pitcher Jarrett Gardner on Friday, bringing the Oklahoma native back to Haymarket Park for a fourth season. The staff ace has led Lincoln in wins and innings pitched in each of the past two years, and led the team in strikeouts last year as well.
“Obviously, Jarrett’s going to be one of the keys to our success this year,” said Saltdogs manager Marty Scott. “I’m certainly fortunate to have a legitimate staff ace already in place, coming into my first season. His consistency should really set the tone for the rest of our rotation.”
Gardner enters the 2009 season with a major Saltdogs team record in his sights. Jarrett has won 23 games in a Lincoln uniform, just three shy of Kyle Ruwe’s mark of 26 wins. Gardner also needs three more complete games to tie Brian Rodaway at ten CG’s in a Saltdogs career—and with six complete games pitched last season alone, the record is certainly within reach. The 28-year-old righty already holds or is tied for the team career records in games started (39), shutouts (4), innings pitched (294.1) and strikeouts (218). Gardner also owns an almost unbelievable strikeout-to-walk ratio, having issued just 42 free passes during his time in Lincoln—an average of less than one walk per appearance.
“When it’s all said and done, Jarrett could go down as one of the greatest pitchers in team history, if not the greatest,” said Lincoln general manager Tim Utrup. “Obviously, we’ve had some pitchers here who have done some fantastic things, but no one’s stayed as consistently excellent in the rotation for as long a period of time as Gardy. We’re fortunate to have him back for another season, and we think he can help lead us to a championship.”
Like his teammates, Gardner got off to a slow start in 2008, but he quickly rounded into form. Jarrett posted arguably the best month of any pitcher in the history of independent baseball, going 6-0 with an 0.96 ERA in six July starts. The effort allowed him to claim Lincoln’s first-ever American Association Player of the Month award. Overall, Gardner finished with 11 wins, the second-highest single season total in Saltdogs history, and a 3.25 ERA.