Freddy Garcia wasn’t supposed to matter last year. Remember that? He came into spring training fighting for a spot, nothing guaranteed. He was a backup plan, forced into action because better options — from Cliff Lee to Phil Hughes to Andy Pettitte — didn’t work out.
Two months ago, Garcia was supposed to be irrelevant again. He had signed as a kind of early winter insurance policy, and he’d moved down the pecking order as the Yankees added Hiroki Kuroda, Michael Pineda and Pettitte. He shot himself in the foot with his brutal month of April, and he would have stayed in a mopup role if everything else had gone to plan.
But things didn’t go to plan. Pettitte got hurt, so did CC Sabathia, and now Garcia matters again. Just like he mattered last year.
“I need to step up,” he said. “We’ve got a couple of guys hurt. I want to do good. That’s all, man. I want to pitch good. I’ve got the chance again, and I want to take my opportunity to prove I can be in the starting rotation.”
Garcia looked good last night. He wasn’t overwhelming, but he looked a lot like he did in 2011. He gave the Yankees what they needed, and he stirred at least a little bit of hope that he could do it again this weekend, and again after the all-star break.
“Really good job,” Joe Girardi said. “Freddy, not making a start for a long time, throwing as many as 35 pitches, and then building him up a little bit more. I thought he did a tremendous job.”
Garcia’s an important piece in trying to bridge this new gap in the rotation. Sabathia should be back after the all-star break, which means the Yankees should need only one start from David Phelps. It’s Garcia who’s best poised to fill the back of the rotation until Pettitte returns. If he does what he did last year — and the rest of the rotation stays in step — the Yankees might weather this rotation crisis as well as they weathered the bullpen losses of Mariano Rivera and Dave Robertson.
“I’ve been feeling good,” Garcia said. “Last month, last couple of weeks I’ve been feeling great. … A couple of guys got hurt and I need to step up and pitch the way I pitch. I’m looking forward to starting.”
Associated Press photo