The evolution of Freddy Garcia has truly been a remarkable case. After undergoing surgery on a torn labrum and rotator cuff in 2007, Garcia experienced a drastic drop in velocity. He was never necessarily a strikeout pitcher, but he could throw in the mid-90s, and had seasons such as 2004, in which in notched 184 punch outs. After three post-surgery seasons toiling between Detroit and Chicago, it appeared as if Garcia might be done. The results had not favorable, but the 35-year-old has experienced a rebirth here in 2011.
“The biggest thing is that you have to accept it,” manager Joe Girardi said at his pregame press conference on Monday before Garcia would face the Baltimore Orioles. “Say, ‘You know what? I have to make adjustments, because I’m different than I used to be.’ That’s how guys stay around and have long careers. If you don’t make adjustments, then you’re not going to have those long careers. Six, seven, eight years and then you’re out. Hitters have to do it, too.”
While it might have been reasonable to expect Garcia to duplicate the 12 wins that he picked up last season with the White Sox, no one could have envisioned the season that he’s had. Garcia has pitched to a 3.09 ERA (nearly a full run less than his career ERA of 4.06) and is on pace to allow less homers than he ever has in a full season’s worth of work — which is even more incredible when you consider the home park that he plays in.
“I think he’s probably exceed them,” Girardi said when asked about his expectations for Garcia. “Just his ability to keep us in every game and win ballgames for us… The innings he’s given us, and just the job that he’s done. I don’t think his first start was until two weeks into the season, and it didn’t bother him. He gets the extra rest, and it doesn’t bother him. He just goes out and pitches.”
One could make the argument that after CC Sabathia, Garcia has been the Yankees next most reliable starter. He’s given Girardi at least five innings in all but one of his starts this season, and his lowest ERA in any month this season was a 3.96 in June. That consistency makes him a tempting option in October, especially with the uncertainty that comes from start to start with the likes of A.J. Burnett, Phil Hughes and Bartolo Colon.
Girardi was asked if he would hesitate to use Garcia in the postseason due to his lack of overpowering stuff.
“There are offenses that are good fastball hitting clubs, and sometimes that offspeed stuff can give them trouble,” he said. “He’s matched up pretty good against some pretty good teams this year, so we’ve seen him do that. It’s a different style, and sometimes it helps who you follow. If you follow a power pitcher, that can be advantageous to both guys. Freddy just has the ability to make pitches when he has to, and I think that matches up pretty well.”
While we’d never be able to get Girardi to discuss it with close to a month remaining in the season, we have the luxury of being able to consider hypothetical situations on this forum. I want to know, if the postseason were to start tomorrow, what would your rotation look like?
Would you go with CC on short rest to pitch in Games 1, 4 and 7? Who starts Game 2? Who starts Game 3? If CC goes on short rest, would you feel comfortable allowing any other starts to do the same?
My opinion (which will surely change between here and October) is that you have to have CC go on short rest, simply because he is easily the most dominant pitcher on the staff, and he’s proven in the past that he can handle that. Then the question becomes, how do you fill in the gaps behind him? With Garcia and Ivan Nova being the Yankees most consistent starters after CC, I think those two have to handle Games 2 and 3. Colon may be the pitcher most likely to give you a seven inning gem, but Garcia and Nova are sure to give you a chance to win. I wouldn’t feel comfortable allowing anyone other than CC to go on short rest, so I’d probably pitch Nova in Game 2, Garcia in Game 3, CC in Game 4, Colon in Game 5, Nova in Game 6 and then back to CC for a potential Game 7.
What would you do?
Here are some more notes from Girardi’s press conference:
• Girardi announced the rotation beyond Hughes tomorrow and Burnett on Wednesday. Nova will pitch on Thursday, followed by Colon on Friday and CC on Saturday. Garcia will take the ball on Sunday. No one is getting skipped, so that means everyone gets an extra day of rest this week.
• Once again, Girardi sang Jesus Montero’s praises for his approach at the plate this morning. “What I’ve liked is that he’s made in-game adjustments,” Girardi said. “Where a pitcher has gotten him out with a pitch and made him look silly, and he’s either taken it the next time or gotten a base-hit. That’s a good sign for a young player.”
• In my two days around the Yankees, I’ve noticed that Montero has been one of the first two or three guys in the clubhouse each morning. Today around 10 a.m., he headed out to the field with bench coach Tony Pena before anyone else was even dressed to do some catching drills. They worked mostly on throws to second base, with Pena repeatedly saying, “Good, good.” He seemed to be making some strong throws, but there’s obviously a lot more to catching than just throwing. I don’t know whether he’ll ever be a reliable defensive option behind the dish, but I will tell you that he seems to have the work ethic to succeed. Montero will DH and bat eighth against the lefty Brian Matusz today.
• Derek Jeter had another big day yesterday, tying a career-high with five RBI. He drove a homer over the left field fence, and later knocked a two-out, two-run base hit up the middle. He’s been locked in since his return from the DL, batting .346 with 11 doubles, three triples, three homers and 34 RBI in 50 games. The important thing is, he’s driving the ball to all fields, and it’s no longer Groundout City in the Bronx. “I’ve said all along that I don’t think I realized the pressure that he was under to get that 3,000th hit,” Girardi said. “Everything that he’s done in his career, he’s handled with such grace and been able to relax in the big moment. Since he’s gotten by that, he’s been a different player.”
• An interesting milestone that not many people seem to be talking about: Mariano Rivera is just five saves away from tying Trevor Hoffman’s record of 601 career saves. He should become only the second player in MLB to reach the 600 marker, and will become the all-time saves leader shorter thereafter. With saves being a relatively new stat (compared to wins, hits, home runs, etc.), this record may not have the same lure as others, but it’s still a very big deal. Rivera is widely considered to be the greatest closer of all-time, and now he can make that official. “I think once he to 600 it will (be a big deal),” Girardi said. “Or even when he gets to 598. I think when he gets 600 it will get a lot more attention.”
• Nick Swisher is getting the day off, despite having five home runs and 17 RBI vs. the Orioles this season. That’s the most homers and second-most RBI he has against any team in 2011. He’s 1-for-16 against Matusz in his career, which explains Girardi’s thinking. Starting in his place in Andruw Jones, who is 0-for-6 against Matusz.