Saturday, February 2, 2013

Christian Garcia: Starter or reliever?

Photo by USA Today Sports Images

During a press conference at Nationals Park last September, manager Davey Johnson revealed the team’s plans to convert 27-year-old relief pitcher Christian Garcia into a starter. The decision was predicated on Garcia’s repertoire of three strong pitches and a looming shift in the organization's pitching depth.

Months later at NatsFest, reporters had the chance to talk to Garcia about the switch, but according to him he hasn’t heard what his role will be on the 2013 Nationals.

“I have no idea. Wherever they want to put me to play I am okay with it. Whatever I can help the team, any spot they need help with I would love to help in any way I can. So if it is starting, relieving, whatever it is.”

Garcia said that neither path really changes his offseason workout, that his training program will continue as is until he hears otherwise. He is currently training in Tampa, FL at the Performance Compound with Tyler Clippard and former Nats lefty John Lannan. 

As far as 2013 goes, Garcia is flexible to start or come out of the bullpen and has no real preference either way.

“I love relieving, I love it. Definitely late inning relieving, I love it. I like the pressure, I like that kind of stress, it’s just the kind of person I am.”

“Starter, it’s definitely different,” he said. “I got nine guys to worry about and remember all nine. There is a lot more thought that goes into starting than there is relieving, but I am up for the challenge either way.”

Garcia will compete in big league camp in just a few weeks, but he knows spending more time in Syracuse is possible. Whatever the Nationals choose to do with him, he says, is okay with him. 

“They’re my boss so I gotta do what they tell me to do. At the end of the day I follow directions. I am going to go in there and compete for a job, whether it is starting or relieving, and do the best I can,” he said. 

“Whatever happens, happens. Those are the kind of things I can’t control, I just worry about the things that I can control.”

Garcia found success with the Nationals last September holding a 2.13 ERA through 13 relief appearances. He was even able to make it into two postseason games. The 2004 3rd round pick finally got his chance in the majors after years in the minors and two Tommy John surgeries.

This offseason afforded Garcia an opportunity to focus on other things besides simply rehabbing his way back from injury, a change he welcomes.

“It’s different for the fact that I don’t have to rehab anything. It is the one time I can focus on just getting stronger and getting my body ready for 162 games instead of always having to rehab the elbow. I got to for the first time put 100 percent towards just getting stronger.”

Garcia’s road to the majors was long and arduous, coming back against the odds from two major elbow surgeries. Last season he also had to work his way through almost the entire Nationals’ system before finally getting the chance he had waited for since being drafted.

“I started off in Double-A which, I don’t think a lot of people would be happy at my age, but you gotta start somewhere. It’s all about where you finish, not where you start,” he said. 

“I always believed that I could do it, but when it actually happened it was pretty cool.”

Garcia made it to the majors and ended up contributing on a division-winning MLB team. It was an experience he worked hard for and appreciates, but now after getting that brief introduction he wants more.

“I would definitely say it’s a more fun offseason for the fact that I got to have an experience, I got a taste of it, I got to know what it feels like. Being in the playoffs and falling short makes you want it more,” he said. 

“It gives you that extra drive that you want to keep going. It was fun for the fact that now I know next year, starting with this Spring Training, I will have an opportunity to have a job. It is my first time ever going into a Spring Training with an opportunity to compete.”

Wherever Garcia begins 2013, at Syracuse or in Washington, and whether he begins as a starter or reliever, chances are that role will change. The Nationals were fortunate last season to avoid major injuries to their starting staff, but that was unusual. If someone goes down, he could be the next man up. 2013 could very well play out like it did for 2012 for Garcia, where he starts may not be the same as where he finishes.

43 comments:

UnkyD said...

I like having this Ace in the hole...:)

JamesFan said...

I like him in the pen. He is obviously very good there, comfortable and it puts less pressure on that second TJ surgery. He is obviously an alternative starter, but that is a second priority. Split the difference and make him the long reliever.

sjm308 said...

Chase: Thank you for giving us a new post on the week-end and I am certainly not one to evaluate or judge but I enjoy your writing and I think you should be proud of your work.

On Garcia, I wonder if they will actually listen to him? He was really really solid last year coming out of the pen and obviously that is his first choice. I think that is a big part of a players success, being comfortable in a role. I do understand that he was a starter before the Tommy John operations but don't you think that is also in the back of his mind?

I am one of few who likes HRod to come north but if he is wild and unpredictable, wouldn't it be better to bring up Garcia and find another #6 starter?

Go Nats!!

UnkyD said...

Relievers throw fewer pitches (obviously), but they throw harder... It may be a mistake to think the bullpen is easier on his arm...

JayB said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tony said...

It's a shame Mark didn't make it to his dead grandmother's bedside in time to get her opinion on all these current issues facing the team. Too soon for a seance?

JayB said...

My bad....I must have missed that sad news. My condolences to Mark and his family.

I know from years of reading Marks stuff how close he is to his family. Talk it Chase is doing the posting and reporting lately here?

Scooter said...

JayB, I don't watch the interview videos either, but there's no need to be a [jerk] about it. Some folks enjoy that stuff.

Scooter said...

Yes, it's Chase. They sign their posts at the bottom. I often forget to check too, but it's been Chase for about a week or so.

NatsJack in Florida said...

Too late JayB, we read it.... How typical of you to complain with out knowing what the heck is going on.

You continue to try to spread your negativism at every opportunity.

Tony said...

Now available at your local Borders.

Joe Torre: The Yankee Years
Terry Francona: The Red Sox Years
JayB: The My Bad Years

sjm308 said...

Well, some of you read it - I can only imagine what eeyore posted. Hope it wasn't too bad. I am guessing Tony's post is in reply to whatever JayB posted.

In other news. Since I am desperate for baseball news, I actually read the transactions section in the Post (yes, I still read the actual newspaper) and listed under Minor League signings were some old friends. Marlins just signed up 17 yes, 17 former major leaguers to minor league contracts including Austin Kearns and Jonathon Albaladejo.
Mets added Marlon Byrd on a minor league deal and noted he is still looking for his car out at RFK.

What a difference in the last few years. Those 17 signings would be what Leather pants would be trying hoping to find at least one or two starters from tht group. Now, we have our 25 man roster pretty well set with great competition just to make the roster. I am wondering if Corey Brown jumps out hot and Bernadina is off playing in the WBC if that will make a difference?

Go Nats!! Stay happy eeyore!!

Faraz Shaikh said...

I think I wouldn't mind a quiet off-season rest of the way, especially since what we have gotten for last few days.

baseballswami said...

I will take quiet as long as it goes by quickly.

Theophilus T. S. said...

Given the lack of quality starter depth -- and the possibility, even if small, of a 50-game hole in the rotation, it makes sense to try out Garcia as a starter in ST (he'll be going three innings, max, for the most part anyway) and early at Syracuse. The circumstance in which it would make sense (sorta) to keep him on the 25-man for Opening Day and beyond would be if Gonzalez has been banished for an extended period and Zach Duke is only available depth with starting experience.

Traveler8 said...

Swami, at least we're down to single digits on the number of days!

SonnyG10 said...

UnkyD said...
Relievers throw fewer pitches (obviously), but they throw harder... It may be a mistake to think the bullpen is easier on his arm...
February 02, 2013 8:55 AM


I agree with this based on my own experience. As a starting pitcher, I always paced myself to last a whole game. On days when I wasn't pitching and was playing the outfield, I would throw the ball a lot harder (when necessary) that when I pitched. If I had been a reliever and knew I only had to go one inning, I would have thrown my fastball a lot harder. So I can see the potential of injury from being a reliever.

sjm308 said...

I don't disagree with either of you concerning the stress on his shoulder. I am only talking of the mental aspect that this guy is letting us know that he prefers coming out of the pen and that does factor in. Now, he is a pro and still has not established himself so of course he will do whatever the club asks. No matter what, he is a very pleasant plus for our club.

Joe Seamhead said...

I actually really like Garcia as a late reliever, but especially with the addition of R. Soriano there really is a seeming surplus of RH relievers. I also worry about him going back to logging too many innings as a starter. Tony and JayB could both get back in the line where they hand out discretion.
Chase, thanks so much for giving us this day our daily fix.

SonnyG10 said...

Off topic: I requested and received my four free tickets to a Nats ST game. I picked the 11 March game against the Atlanta Braves. If I go I can only use two of the tickets, so if any of you want the other two tickets (for free) let me know. They are in Sect 210, Row 16, seats 3 and 4.

Doc said...

Stress or no stress on the much operated wing, CGar would obviously like to be in the pen.

I still think that he could have helped us in that fabled 5th game with the hated Cards.

The man will tell him what he wants and Christian will do it. Let's hope for the best!

Wad ya think NatsJack, does your guy do best starting or coming out of the pen??


GooooooooooooooooooooNats!

Sec. 3, My Sofa said...

Thanks for the generous offer, Sonny. Too bad for me I won't be there then. Someone else might be.

NatsJack in Florida said...

There's no reason he can't be a starter now that he's had a chance to develope some strength.

But I feel much more comfortable with him as a short man for the near term.

Sec. 3, My Sofa said...

9 Days.

I'm just saying.

John C. said...

To me, this is a situation where the team's needs easily trump what might be the player's preference. The Nats need rotation depth more than they need bullpen depth, and during the season converting from starting to relieving is easier than going the other way. So Garcia will be stretched out to prepare for service as a starter in Syracuse, and we'll see what happens after that.

Condolences to Mark and his family. Family business comes first, the blog will be here when Mark is able to come back.

baseballswami said...

So has the issue of having no lefties in the pen been settled? Think we are going all the way into opening day like this? Rizzo will sift through and find something? Or the Nats will defy conventional practices and take their own path? Again. I have to admit that the rebel in me likes it when the Nats are mavericks.

Tony said...

Zach Duke and Bill Bray are lefties. One or both of them will be in the bullpen.

SonnyG10 said...

I have a taker for one of my tickets. I have one ticket left.

natsfan1a said...

Didn't see post preceding the one at 9:44 AM but...dang...

baseballswami said...

Tony- still not much- just saying'

Kenz aFan said...

You people are a bunch of idiots. To actually brow beat someone who was unaware of what was going on in Mark's life is petty and shameful.

Shame on all of you for acting the way you did.

So would any of you "well informed" fans like to to tell the rest of us what happened in Bill Ladson's life that caused him to be out of actions recently?

Faraz Shaikh said...

it is the lack of understanding that everyone was upset with, not with lack of knowing what had kept Mark away. If one has been visiting this blog for a while, should know your way around here I would think.

sm13 said...

On topic, I have mixed emotions about Garcia. He was a force in the pen late last year and may have found his nitch, not unlike Stammen. If Davey thinks he has the stuff to succeed at starter, well I always give Davey the benefit of the doubt. Given some of the recent ugly attempts to flip a hard-throwing reliever to a starter -- Felize in Texas, Bard in Boston -- I would be content if he stayed in the pen and added to our incedible depth at that position. On the other hand, we do need starting depth.

Thus, my mixed emotions...

baseballswami said...

Sm13. As for being on topic- I thank you. As to the topic at hand, Garcia. I think he has the capability of being stretched out if the team needs him. Stammen could also make some starts if need be. They just build up innings each outing. Those would probably be situations where a starter will be missing a few starts. If a starter goes all the way down( hyperventilating as I type), then the organization would make a trade as a more long term fix. I cannot see them using Garcia as a starter in the majors yet and they seem to not want to waste him in Syracuse. It might depend on whether or not we sign or trade for any more bullpen guys. - if we do, we can do without him in the pen and let him learn in AAA.

peric said...

They know they need starting depth MORE than they need relievers at this point. The lack of any serious injury issues with any of the seven to eight starters this past season was very lucky given the number and incidence of injuries that occurred positionally and in the bullpen. (Lannan and Duke should be considered starters 8 & 9 after Gorzo and Stammen at 6 & 7).

And they're covered with two converted bullpen types in Ryan Perry and Christian Garcia. Plus Bradley Meyers, Jeff Mandel, and Tanner Roarke in addition to the ubiquitous Duke and Stammen.

As far as the bullpen not sure if Hassan Pena and Patrick McCoy will be enough or good enough for that matter. Rafael Martin didn't pan out as expected but then there's converted starter Erik Davis. There's Cameron Selik and Pat Lehman as well. Maybe these pitchers are a lot closer than they seemed last season. And of course there's still H-Rod.

I guess this is how things might stack up ... they've got some good power arms in the queue depth-wise for the rotation. Got a couple of decent potential relievers as well.

It sure seems like Garcia and Perry lineup as the #1 #2 in Syracuse next season along with Mandel at #3.

baseballswami said...

What season is it reasonable to start seeing Lucas Giolito?

NatsJack in Florida said...

2016

blovy8 said...

Scary as it would seem though, Maya is probably the most ready at AAA.

baseballswami said...

NatsJack -fall of 2016? Or fall of 2015? Would love to see him at Potomac but I don't see the new stadium being ready and Pfitzner is such a hole. I feel that he will be in the Strassie type category. Exciting.

natsfan1a said...

For Kenza (and anyone else who might be interested to see it): Mark wrote a beautiful tribute post about his grandmother before signing off on Tuesday.

On topic, man, has Christian ever got the cliches down. Well done, young man. :-)

BigCat said...

His stuff is right up there with Storens....maybe better. All he needs is a chance.

From reading Davey's comments about the Soriano signing, I get the impression he felt we didn't need him. I think both Drew and Garcia have better stuff than him. Also HRod. Course, with HRod, you never know where its going

peric said...

Johnson wanted Garcia as a hot spare for the rotation.

Thus Soriano. Can't rely on Henry finally getting past his jitters and lack of control. But, theoretically he potentially projects as way better than Soriano and Storen.

Again, pencil Garcia and Ryan Perry in the Syracuse rotation #1, #2.

I think you might see Maya working in relief this season but that'll be up to Beasley. He may prefer Maya as his #5 starter.

peric said...

NatsJack -fall of 2016? Or fall of 2015? Would love to see him at Potomac

He's not a college pitcher like Strasburg and he's coming off of TJ which will require around a 2 year rehab protocol. 2016 sounds about right.

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