The 2012 Washington Nationals had a lot of surprise returns on their players, especially Minor League call-ups. One of those call-ups was Christian Garcia, a failed New York Yankees prospect who had suffered through three elbow surgeries. The Nationals signed him in 2011 after spending six years with the Yankees, and Garcia was up the next year. In Garcia’s 13 games in a curly W, he pitched to a 2.13 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 12.2 innings pitched. Garcia seemed poised to become another head on the many headed monster that is Washington’s bullpen until he came down with a forearm strain and then a hamstring strain, and Garcia’s 2013 was over before it began.
Now, going into 2014, Garcia is healthy again and looking to crack a roster he seemed poised to become a mainstay on after making the 2012 postseason roster. Garcia also was dominant as a minor league closer in 2012, as he saved 21 games in 21 opportunities at Double-A and Triple-A before being called up. Garcia took a small step back in the postseason that year, pitching to a 3.38 ERA in two games in the now infamous 2012 NLDS. Injuries are a major theme in Garcia’s career until now, and there was a chance the Nationals were going to stretch Garcia out, as he was a starter by trade. Now, Garcia is most likely going to be a full time reliever, but can he crack the Opening Day roster?
It would be easy to handicap Garcia’s chances at making the roster. Currently, the incumbents have to be Rafael Soriano, Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard, Craig Stammen and most likely Jerry Blevins as one of the lefties. Garcia’s competition most likely stands at Ryan Mattheus, Xavier Cedeno and Tanner Roark if he does not make the rotation. Mattheus is coming off an injury plagued season himself, and Cedeno and Roark are set to prove that 2013 was not a fluke.
The competition will be fascinating because the presence of Cedeno really is about preference for Matt Williams, and since Roark could probably plug in nicely in the rotation if need be. Needless to say, Garcia will have his work cut out for him, but he certainly is capable of cracking this year’s roster, especially if he is 100 percent healthy.