After signing Rafael Soriano to anchor a bullpen that already features a pair of former closers, the Washington Nationals bullpen has been touted as one of the best – and deepest – in the major leagues.
The team will put that depth to the test this spring, as they will be without fireballer Christian Garcia, who has been shut down with forearm tightness for up to a two weeks.
Although Garcia is not considered to be a late-inning set-up man at this point (those duties would obviously go to Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard), his loss is not without significance. The 27-year old had been partially groomed as a closer as late as 2012, notching 14 saves in AAA before bringing his overpowering, strikeout stuff to the major leagues in September and the playoffs last year.
That closer’s job is not his to take, of course, but the team did not hesitate to use Garcia in holds situations despite his lack of experience in the majors, and his emergence could have eventually allowed the Nats room to explore trades for Storen, who many teams still see as a potential shut-down closer.
It wasn’t going to be too long before Garcia got to that level, considering the polished command he had of his arsenal. He’s already the second-hardest throwing pitchers in the Nationals bullpen too, with a high-90s fastball that fall just shy of the velocity that Henry Rodriguez had on his.
He’s been excellent with it in the bigs, allowing just runs on two of his 13 outings with the Nationals in 2012, with nine of them being hitless, while posting an impressive 10.66 K/9 to 1.42 BB/9.
However, it’s been health, as it is now, that has held the righty back. Garcia is coming off a pair of Tommy John surgeries in 2007 and 2010, and you’d have to imagine that another significant setback now could be career-ending.
Fortunately for the Nationals, the word on Garcia is not serious at this time, and the team does have the vaunted 1-2-3 punch in the late innings to take care of business, so the team does have the depth to handle it.
You can breathe a little easier now, Henry Rodriguez, your fight to make the team’s bullpen just got a little easier…for now.