Christian Garcia was one of the biggest surprises on the Nationals this season, even though he only started his big league career in September. Garcia impressed so much through the season in the minor leagues that Washington had no choice but to call him up. The results were a spot on the playoff roster and rumors that the Nationals would be considering a return to the starting rotation.
Sep 6, 2012; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals relief pitcher Christian Garcia (56) throws in the ninth inning against the Chicago Cubs at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-US PRESSWIRE
Garcia was a third round pick in 2004 by the New York Yankees. He was a starting pitcher in the minors but between 2006 and 2009 required two Tommy-John surgeries and a third surgery to remove bone chips. The Nationals picked him up in 2011 after he was released by the Yankees. He pitched exclusively in the bullpen since then, and had a tremendous season in Harrisburg and Syracuse holding down a 0.86 ERA in 52.1 innings.
At the major league level, Garcia pitched in 13 games (12.2 innings) with a 2.13 ERA, 15 strikeouts and had a favorable ground ball-fly ball ratio which was enough for Davey Johnson to say that he deserved a spot on the playoff roster. He appeared in games 2 and 3 in the NLDS, allowing one run in 2.2 innings.
The idea of making him a starter stems from the fact that the Nationals don’t have much minor league depth in terms of starting pitching. With Edwin Jackson and Chien-Ming Wang potentially leaving, it would mean the options for a fifth starter would be John Lannan and potentially a long reliever out of the bunch the Nationals have (Tom Gorzelanny and Zack Duke come to mind.) If someone were to get injured, the pot limits itself again.
Sure, there are options on the free agent market like Jackson last year, but you can never have too many starting pitchers and in a year where the Nationals were extremely healthy in that regard (only 12 starts outside of their five regular starters – most of that due to the way Stephen Strasburg was handled and one where Gio Gonzalez was rested for the playoffs), you cannot expect that every year.
However, Garcia has dealt with lots of arm troubles and if the Nationals want to make him a starter you can bet that they will bring him along very slowly and if there is any sign of trouble, they will shut the process down. There is no guarantee that his arm will be able to handle the strain of being a starter even if his stuff can.
Season Highlight: Just making it to the majors would be a huge accomplishment given his past, as well as making the playoff roster but his best performance of the season was September 11 against the Mets. Coming into the game in the 7th inning, he threw 1.1 innings striking out three and holding a 5-3 Nationals lead.