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Garcia thrilled to be healthy at long last

Feb 26, 2014, 10:02 AM EST

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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.

  1. Hiram Hover - Feb 26, 2014 at 10:13 AM

    “That’s the only spring training that I’ve never gotten hurt,” he said.

    Ominous words from a guy who still has a month of ST left.

  2. tcostant - Feb 26, 2014 at 10:16 AM

    Does Garcia have options left???

    I truely wonder if screwing around with him as a starter effected him after so much success (be in in a short stretch) in the bigs as RP.

  3. masterfishkeeper - Feb 26, 2014 at 10:17 AM

    They never got the chance to use him as a starter, even in spring training, so that wasn’t the problem.

  4. jd - Feb 26, 2014 at 10:18 AM

    You are right Hiram. But oh that stuff. If he’s healthy he’s so much better than the alternatives.

    Imagine getting the type of bullpen work that Atlanta got from Carpenter. That’s the type of stuff Garcia brings to the table.

    • Hiram Hover - Feb 26, 2014 at 10:50 AM

      In a discussion the other day of who should make the final BP spots out of ST – I said Garcia, because the Nats ought to get as much out of him as they can before he makes his inevitable trip to the DL.

      It wasn’t a particularly nice thing to say, but I wasn’t kidding. I agree the potential is there, but I seriously doubt that he stays healthy long enough to realize it over the course of the season.

      I would, of course, love to be proved wrong.

    • Doc - Feb 26, 2014 at 10:50 AM

      Correctomundo, jd!

      Garcia gives us a ‘swing and miss’ guy like the Cards and Braves have. A healthy CGar helps us get the pen back on track.

      GooooooooooooooooooooChristian!!!! GoooooooooooooooooooooooooooNats!!!!!!

  5. Eugene in Oregon - Feb 26, 2014 at 10:29 AM

    So, with all those days/months/years on the DL, you’re basically saying he’s got a fresh arm, right?

  6. Section 222 - Feb 26, 2014 at 10:43 AM

    Garcia could force Williams to reevaluate his two lefties in the bullpen preference. That guy is nasty when he’s on.

    Brian Kenny had his last Clubhouse Confidential broadcast last night. Asking for bold predictions on players, one of his guests said Bryce Harper would have an MVP caliber season and get back in the conversation with Trout. For a bold prediction on teams, Kenny said the Nats would win 103 games. He is very taken with the Fister deal.

    • Hiram Hover - Feb 26, 2014 at 11:12 AM

      Does anyone know – does Ayala’s deal include an opt out?

      I don’t remember it being officially reported that way, but when Kilgore projected that Ayala would make the OD roster the other day, he said he did so “assuming Ayala can opt out of his deal.”

      But if there’s no need to put Ayala on the 25-man roster to avoid losing him, I’d say stash him in the minors, keep Garcia as your last righty, and Cedeno as the 2d lefty.

      • Eugene in Oregon - Feb 26, 2014 at 11:28 AM

        Under the current CBA, don’t all free agent deals for x-year veterans include an opt-out if you don’t make the team (25-man roster) as of a day or two before the season opens? I’m not sure exactly what the X is — and I’m off to class so I don’t have time to look it up — but I would assume that Mr. Ayala would fit within that category.

      • tcostant - Feb 26, 2014 at 11:36 AM

        I’m not sure about that. When Mike Gonz was here, wasn’t his opt out in mid-May?

      • Hiram Hover - Feb 26, 2014 at 11:47 AM

        Veterans of 5 years plus service time can refuse an assignment to the minors, but Ayala reportedly signed a minor league contract, so I don’t think that applies.

      • therealjohnc - Feb 26, 2014 at 12:02 PM

        No offense to Ayala, but I just don’t care whether his deal has an opt out. “The Best 25 Go North” after all, and if Garcia is healthy then it’s hard to see how he’s not among the best 25. The Nats have enough pitching depth in the system that hanging onto a guy like Ayala shouldn’t impact their decision making at all. With the five gimmes (Soriano, Clippard, Storen, Stammen, Blevins) and a healthy Garcia, the question is whether you want another lefty and/or a long reliever for that last spot. If someone beats Detwiler out for the #5 rotation spot (less likely, IMHO) then he can fulfill both roles and you are done. If Detwiler is the #5 starter (more likely), then the last bullpen spot is a duel between the lefties (Cedeno, Robertson, etc) and the long reliever/swing starter candidates (Roark, Jordan, Ohlendorf).

        In the latter case (Detwiler is the #5 starter) then the Nationals could use Stammen for the long relief role. If they do that, store the starters in Syracuse to keep them stretched out for depth purposes, and if the lefties are all underwhelming, only then do the many, many RHRP options come into play. That includes players like Ryan Mattheus and Aaron Barrett who are already on the 40 man roster and would not require a move to clear a spot for them. This puts them ahead of Ayala, Delcarmen, Roenicke and the rest of the minor league contract guys to start with.

        The wild card here is Solis. If Detwiler is the #5 starter, then you could slide Solis into that last bullpen spot in essentially the Tom Gorzelanny role. He could be used as a LOOGY or as a long reliever in that scenario, giving Williams a LH option other than Blevins. A bullpen of Soriano, Clippard, Storen, Stammen and Garcia from the right side and Blevins and Solis from the left, with both Stammen and Solis available for multiple innings at need.

      • realdealnats - Feb 26, 2014 at 5:32 PM


        And Roark goes down?

      • Hiram Hover - Feb 26, 2014 at 6:29 PM

        Yes, most likely, Roark goes down, pitches every 5 days in the minors. He’ll get his chance to come back. He’s going to Syracuse, not Siberia.

        I like realjohn’s connection of the situation with the rotation and the BP, and I agree that Det probably gets the 5th spot. I’d use a slightly different gambling/gaming term to describe Solis making the OD roster – it’s less a wild card than a long shot. This is a guy who hasnt even logged a full year at A+.

  7. nats1924 - Feb 26, 2014 at 10:57 AM

    saw him a pitch a few times in 2012 — he can be downright nasty

    lets not jinx ourselves Garcia! good luck in 2014

  8. Section 222 - Feb 26, 2014 at 12:29 PM

    Very good summary of the options by therealjohnc. I totally agree that whether Ayala has an opt out should play no role in the decision. If he’s not good enough to beat out Garcia or the other contenders, he shouldn’t be in our bullpen on Opening Day. It’s not 2010 anymore.

    • realdealnats - Feb 26, 2014 at 5:52 PM

      I’ll repeat my question to you that I asked RealJohn–you are willing to send Roark down given these scenarios?

      It’s a great problem to have, this depth situation in the BP, but Roark is a guy I want on my 25 going north some how some way.

      If Det is #5, and the final two BP spots are between Garcia, Roark, Cedeno, Solis, and Ayala, I think you send Ayala and Solis down, but of those final three–given Williams wants 2 lefties which seems smart–I just don’t know. Soriano and Blevins are actually the guys I like least. Blevins mostly b/c I’m not as familiar with him and Soriano b/c I always feel like massive damage is about to occur.

      What if Roark is #5? And the BP goes Soriano, Storen, Clippard, Blevins, Stammen, Det, Garcia?

      I thought I had this all worked out in my head until Garcia reappeared healthy.

      • realdealnats - Feb 26, 2014 at 8:01 PM

        Re: last comment, I know Soriano and Blevins are going north don’t get me wrong. And I believe Det gets #5 as well. Just hate to see Roark not be in the OD 25. Guy’s got grit. And if he keeps looking good in ST I say ride that horse as long as you can, don’t squander it.

      • Section 222 - Feb 27, 2014 at 4:14 PM

        real — I guess it’s a little early to answer the hypotheticals because there are so many variables, particularly how good these pitchers look in the games. But I’ll take a stab at it. Like you, my head starts to spin a little when I try to remember every possibility.

        We all seem to agree that Soriano, Clip, Storen, Stammen, and Blevins are virtually guaranteed spots. An injury could change that, but not much else, other than someone getting Steve Blass disease.

        If Roark is our No. 5, then Det is in the bullpen (no options, no way he would clear waivers), and the last spot goes to the best available righty — hopefully Garcia, maybe Ayala. If Det is No. 5 (which I think is most likely), then it really depends on how good Cedeno, Ayala, Garcia, and Roark look. If two of the first three pitch well and look like they can contribute in high leverage situations, not just as mop up guys, then yes, I’d send Roark down as starter insurance, not matter how well he pitches this spring. I don’t think Solis comes north no matter how good he looks. Maybe he’s a mid-season callup if we need another lefty. But if Ayala and Garcia are shaky or injured, then maybe Roark comes north as the long guy.

        Given the growing number of RH options we have, Roark’s best shot at coming north would seem to be pitching so well that he wins the No. 5 spot. If he doesn’t do that, then he probably hasn’t pitched that much better than the other RHs and will end up in AAA to start the season. I’m not too worried about squandering his good mojo. He’ll be the first callup if a starter gets injured, and you know someone will get injured.

        You’ll notice that I didn’t even mention Mattheus. That wasn’t an oversight.

        By the way, who is Aaron Barrett?

  9. Theophilus T.S. - Feb 26, 2014 at 12:31 PM

    JohnC touches on what could be a set of difficult choices for the brass if any of the non-roster types is among “the best 25” when camp breaks. The 40-man roster is pretty packed and for the moment there are no candidates to move to the 60-day DL. If Carroll and or Ayala makes the trip north — and I think they are the only ones with a chance — someone — or some-two — will have to go. The most logical is Perez — because I’m pretty sure he no longer figures in anyone’s long-term plans — but Walters and Kobernus are also on the edge. (My personal choice would be to sell Hairston to the Chunichi Dragons.) I don’t see Walters contributing but there’s no minor league infield depth. This will continue to be an issue throughout the season if the have hopes of stashing any of these guys at Syracuse.

    The burdens, I suppose, of an abundance of riches.

  10. Muddy Ruel - Feb 26, 2014 at 12:37 PM

    Nice article re Nats’ new signee Drew Rossi at

  11. realdealnats - Feb 27, 2014 at 10:19 PM

    I read it almost exactly like you do except the notion of squandering good mojo. In certain instances I think you can. Now I’m wondering if I might not go with Garcia and Roark and only one lefty. But I hear everybody.





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