Feb 26, 2014, 10:02 AM EDT
VIERA, Fla. — Christian Garcia was asked the last time he was healthy for spring training, and the Nationals reliever immediately knew the answer: 2012.
“That’s the only spring training that I’ve never gotten hurt,” he said.
Talk about a rough road to travel. Garcia has experienced it all during his nine professional seasons. He had Tommy John surgery twice while in the Yankees’ farm system. He missed all of 2007 and made only six total appearances in 2009 and 2010.
And then, just when it appeared the right-hander was poised to play a significant role in the Nationals’ bullpen last season, he was bitten by the injury bug again. A forearm strain prevented him from appearing in any spring training games last year, and then a lingering hamstring strain sidelined him for all but 11 minor-league games during the regular season.
This spring, though, all has gone well for Garcia. The same electric repertoire he flashed late in 2012, when he posted a 2.13 ERA in 12 September games for the Nationals and earned a spot on their playoff roster, has returned.
For the first time in awhile, and for one of the few times in his entire career, Garcia can enjoy being a full participant in spring training.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “It becomes fun again for me. When you’re fighting injuries and stuff, it’s not as fun. Nobody likes pain. If every time I go out there and tell you it hurts to throw, it’s not going to be fun. So the fact I can go out there and have fun and be myself and pitch, it’s great.”
Garcia, 28, is one of several relievers in the mix for one or two available spots on the Opening Day roster. He’ll get to start making his case Friday when he comes out of the bullpen during the Nationals’ Grapefruit League opener against the Mets in Port St. Lucie.
It’ll be the first big-league spring training game he has pitched since 2009.
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