All eyes were on Freddy Garcia of the Atlanta Braves today in Spring Training after the news of Kris Medlen‘s season-ending injury. Medlen, who was the likely candidate to take over as the ace of the Braves’ staff, had some ligament damage to his pitching elbow and will probably have to get Tommy John surgery for the second time in his career. This means that the door is wide open for other pitchers, such as Garcia, to step up and stake a claim for a spot in the starting rotation.
However, after Garcia’s poor performance on the mound against the St. Louis Cardinals today, Braves fans have to be a little worried. The 37-year-old starting pitcher didn’t show any signs of a guy ready to take over a spot in the Atlanta rotation. He allowed two runs in the first inning off of two doubles to Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina. Then, after Tommy La Stella‘s fielding error to put Mark Ellis on base to begin the second, Garcia let him score from third base on a wild pitch to give himself an unearned run.
The third inning wasn’t much better either. The veteran gave up a walk, one single and a RBI double from Jhonny Peralta before getting Ellis to fly out to end the third. The damage could have been a lot worse, too. If not for the swirling wind in the outfield knocking balls down, Peralta’s RBI double that hit the wall would have been a two-run homer.
Luckily, Garcia showed manager Fredi Gonzalez that he still has some stuff left in the tank after his better outing in the fourth inning. In his first clean inning of the day, he didn’t allow one base runner to get on this time around. He recorded one ground out, a fly ball and then struck out Matt Carpenter on a great pitch inside to end his up-and-down performance. I’m sure Gonzalez wants to see more of this instead of what he saw the first three innings, too.
Garcia is an important piece to the puzzle for the Braves this season. With all the injuries to other pitchers, such as Brandon Beachy and Medlen to name a few, he has to be the guy to step up. He can’t give up six hits, four runs (three earned), a walk and record three strikeouts on 73 pitches like he did today if he wants to be in the starting rotation. His ERA already sits at a terrible 6.94, and as Spring Training goes on he has to get better or else Gonzalez will have to consider someone else for the starting rotation.