It’s not the most comforting way to look at a loss, but besides the bat silencing from Mets starter Jacob deGrom or the latest bullpen collapse, the return of Jaime Garcia was a huge positive takeaway from today’s game. Garcia pitched so well that his own teammates were stunned into utter silence at the plate.
The official line for Garcia: 7 innings, 2 earned runs, 5 hits, 3 strikeouts and five walks with one home run allowed. The walks are never welcomed, especially when three of them are inning starters. However, the rust is still being banged off Garcia’s left arm as he makes his latest(and final in a Redbirds uniform) comeback. For a man who has been throwing pitches to Major League hitters for seven years now, he still feels like a rookie at times. A man constantly trying to prove to himself, his team and the fanbase that he deserves a spot on this team and a place in this league.
Thursday’s start featured all the usual Garcia mound tics. The constant arm curls that tighten the jersey around the bicep and the shoulder. The circling of the mound between hitters. The occasional snap back from the catcher toss. These things will never change and are part of Garcia’s pitching DNA. Every pitcher has a sequence of events he goes through out there. Lance Lynn fixes his cap about 305 times per start. Adam Wainwright has his demeanor. Michael Wacha acts like he has ants in his pants out there, working faster than fast can keep track of. Garcia looked like himself, the healthy lefthander the Cards invested 4 years and 28 million dollars in back in 2011 when he looked so effective and hungry.
For the people who think Garcia has never been durable, please guess again. He once pitched 194.1 innings(in 2011). His lifetime ERA is respectable and he has 45 wins. The thing that has eluded him for much of the past three seasons is health. After making 60 starts in 2010-11, Garcia has only started 37 games the past three plus years(including today’s start). His talent is playing catch up with his health and fans can only hope that race is over.
A healthy Garcia means General Manager John Mozeliak doesn’t have to panic and unload what’s left of his farm system and possibly a portion of his 25 man roster to grab a top of the line starter. At least for the moment. Mo can step back and let things play out and measure his reach a bit longer. A healthy Garcia has many effects. It allows Carlos Martinez to return to a 5th spot developmental role. It gives a boost to new rotation ace Lance Lynn(talking about innings baby) and eases the pressure on Michael Wacha and John Lackey. A healthy Garcia makes this rotation strong again and can take pressure off an overloaded bullpen(which has shown true signs of fatigue in the past week). In short, Jaime’s return is huge. Thursday’s start was a big first step in a positive direction. The turmoil of the past 11 months is behind him. All he has to do now is stay healthy and throw.
Garcia’s next few starts involve a bit of a breeze and a vice grip. He next takes the hill against the Arizona Diamondbacks at home, and then makes a start against Milwaukee at Busch as well before getting his first real test against the Dodgers in LA and The Royals at Busch. Soon enough, the Cards will see what they have in Garcia. Can he last? What kind of durability can he provide as the season stretches towards the halfway mark? What kind of external acquisition does Mo have to target in July? If Garcia stays healthy, Marco Gonzales hangs out as your 6th man when needed. If Garcia stays healthy into July, does Mo need to make a move at all? Odds are against a nice and easy trade deadline for the Cards GM but Jaime staying healthy makes his nights easier to collect sleep.
It is one start after all. People will complain about the walks or they’ll say get ready for a Jaime injury. All of it is valid and none of it should be taken lightly. I will say if you are in the business of NOT being cynical in May, hoping for a healthy Garcia trek is in the team’s and fans best wishes.
Let’s see how far Jaime Garcia can last because the effect he can have on this team and rotation is a huge factor when considering this team’s season long strength and postseason stamina.
How much viability does Jaime Garcia’s body have left? The future holds that answer but it’s okay to feel good about the beginning witnessed on Thursday in New York.
Thanks for reading, @buffa82.