Usually, when the Braves sign a guy, I do a Howdy column about that guy (provided I’m actually updating this blog). However, I’m not sure I can say Howdy to a guy who is returning to the Braves because, I guess, nobody else was anxious for his services. Freddy Garcia inked a minor league contract with the Braves that includes an invitation to spring training. Presumably, Garcia will have an opportunity to enter the fifth starter battle with the two other top contenders, Alex Wood and David Hale.
Garcia was acquired by the Braves last August 23rd for cash. Yes, the Braves traded cash for a player. When he signed, I wrote the following:
“Whether he comes in as a reliever or starts a few games in September, he doesn’t have a prayer of reaching the postseason roster. He sucks, we know he sucks, he knows he sucks…but he’s getting a prorated veteran minimum so what does he care? And the Braves have another veteran arm they have no desire to have back in 2014 so what do they care?
Watch him be lights out for two weeks in September now.”
Yeah, so about that…Garcia made one start in Gwinnett (where he gave up eight runs in 3.2 ING), but got the September call-up just the same and was *gulp* lights out. In six games, including three starts, Garcia seemed to think he was a 24 year-old for the Mariners again. He threw 27.1 ING in the final month with a pretty good 4/1 K/BB rate and a 1.02 WHIP. The desperate Braves, who only a few months before had starting pitch depth out of their rears, chose to not only add Garcia to the postseason roster, but he notably started Game 4 against some guy named Clayton Kershaw. He worked around eight hits and two walks, but was lifted for a pinch hitter in the seventh. That pinch hitter, Jose Constanza, singled in Elliot Johnson, who had tripled, and the Braves had a 3-2 lead. Let’s review…in a do-or-die game, Constanza pinch-hit for Garcia and singled in E.Johnson to give the Braves the lead. Talk about an odd turn of events.
Of course, in the bottom of the 8th, with his best pitcher watching, Fredi Gonzalez decided to go with David Carpenter and two batters later, the Dodgers were in the lead and the Braves season ended with a whimper and three K’s in the top of the ninth.
Garcia had an impressive month-plus with the Braves and obviously hoped it would be enough to garner a major league contract. Instead, he returns to the Braves hoping to continue his brief career resurgence. As you may have heard, Garcia can only do one thing. He “just make pitch.” Whether that pitch is a fastball, splitter, sinker, slider, curveball, or change-up is unknown and part of Garcia’s mystery.
My expectations are minimally low for Garcia. He is Phillies-old so I guess he has experience and would that be enough to help him get a spot on this team provided he doesn’t get blown up this spring? Maybe. With Eric O’Flaherty officially out of the discussion and Jonny Venters sidelined for the first couple of months, Luis Avilan is looking pretty lonely as far as entrenched lefties out of the pen goes. Could that push Wood to the pen? Possibly. Garcia steps in with a chance to pitch himself into the rotation until, at least, Gavin Floyd‘s return. The odds are not in his favor, but my gut says Garcia has a great chance to make the team, even if I would probably not like to see it happen.