Remember Freddy Garcia last season? Remember when he pitched his way into the postseason rotation? Remember when he came into spring training this year and absolutely dazzled?
“I was feeling good in spring training,” he said after today’s 6.2 strong innings in Boston. “And when the season started, something happened. It’s crazy, but now I’m back, and I feel great.”
All year it’s been easier to remember Garcia’s brutal month of April rather than think back to the 12 months that came before it, or to recognize that his past two months have been pretty good. Garcia was dismissed as a waste of time, a waste of money and a waste of a roster spot, but now that the rotation needs him again, Garcia’s looked a lot last he did last season.
This Red Sox lineup is pretty bad, and Garcia did what he’s supposed to do against bad lineups. Five days ago, he did the same thing against the Rays. He’s not overpowering — even at his best he’s throwing low-90s fastballs and a bunch of offspeed pitches — but he knows how to get through lineups. These past two starts are proof that he hasn’t forgotten.
“I think if he was a little older, I’d be more concerned (after April),” manager Joe Girardi said. “I saw signs in the bullpen that he was throwing the ball better. Freddy was like, ‘I’m going to get back.’ He was committed to getting back. He did it. It’s strange. He went through, to me, probably a little bit of a dead arm period. A lot of times, guys will go through it in spring training. He went through it, I think, in the first month.”
Funny thing is, for a guy who doesn’t throw hard, most of the focus on Garcia’s turnaround has been based on his velocity. His fastball isn’t especially fast, but the fact it was a little slower than usual in April was a sign that his arm speed was off. As the velocity has improved a little bit, so has Garcia.
“You have nothing,” Garcia said. “Just go out there and try to make it happen. You don’t feel strong or nothing. Just weak. Yeah, it’s crazy, but it happens. It’s happened to many guys. I’m not the first one. … I started throwing four, five times a week, long toss. And I got my speed back.”
• Last night, the Yankees managed to win without hitting a home run. This afternoon, they scored all six runs on homers. Nick Swisher had a three-run homer, then Andruw Jones hit two solo shots and Jayson Nix added one. “This team is designed to hit home runs, it’s kind of our thing,” Swisher said. “Everyone talks about hits with runners in scoring position, but if you hit 200 home runs a year as a team, that’s going to score you an awful lot of runs.”
• Last time the Yankees had two sets of back-to-back homers in a game was in 2008 when Robinson Cano and Jose Molina went back-to-back in teh fifth inning — amazing that those two were ever hitting back-to-back in a lineup, much less hitting home runs back-to-back — and then Cody Ranson and Xavier Nady did the same in the ninth.
• Swisher snapped an 0-for-17 with his three-run homer in the first inning. “Past three, four days have been a little stressful, you know?” Swisher said. “But in a situation like that, I’ve just got to get back to being more aggressive, looking for some pitches to drive. It’s just nice to start the game off like that. When you’ve got a double dip, it’s just nice to get the first one.”
• Jones had two homers in a game for the 43rd time in his career. Two of those have been three-homer games. These were his eighth and ninth homers of the season, his fifth and sixth off left-handed pitching. “I know I didn’t hit a home run in a while and I’ve been battling,” Jones said. “I had a couple tough lefties in Tampa, managed to get a single hit over there. Today he made a couple mistakes and I took advantage of them.”
• Cody Eppley delivered 1.1 hitless innings. Girardi called him the biggest surprise of the season, and it’s hard to argue. “He hadn’t seen me previous to me getting up here,” Eppley said. “I think he’s got a little more confidence in me in some of the roles and spots that I’ve come into the game.”
• This was the first time Mark Teixeira hit second in a lineup since 2003.
• Cano was hit by a pitch in the tip of his pinky. He stayed in the game and said he’s fine.
• Last word goes to Swisher: “I think it’s big. Coming off a decently rough series in Tampa, losing two out of three, then being able to get that last one, and to come in here in a rivalry setting, and to grab the first two, you’ve got to feel really comfortable about that. But we’ve still got two more games to go. We feel really confident about what we’re doing. We’ve just got to keep going out there and playing Bomber baseball, and we’ll see what happens.”
Associated Press photos