In April 2010, Christian Garcia drove home to his apartment in Trenton, N.J., mad at the world. He had just learned, again, a doctor would slice open his pitching elbow – his second Tommy John surgery and third elbow surgery. His anger rose as he thought about the rehab ahead and the risk to livelihood.
“And I see this blind kid getting off a school bus,” Garcia recalled earlier this week. “I’m like, ‘Man, I’m worried about little things like this? When there’s people in the world that’s got way bigger problems than I’ve got?’ It made me think, you know what? This is just an obstacle. This is just a speed bump. I’m going to work hard and get right back on course. I never thought I wouldn’t get back.”
Garcia, 27, is back now. More than two years after his second elbow reconstruction, Garcia has become the Washington Nationals’ best relief prospect and a possible September call-up. He is not on the Nationals’ 40-man roster (which currently sits at 39 players), but his jet-fueled stuff and his absurd numbers warrant consideration.
Over 50 1/3 innings between Class AAA Syracuse and Class AA Harrisburg, Garcia has allowed five earned runs – a 0.89 ERA – while striking out 64 and walking 17. He became the closer at Syracuse, where he has a 0.59 ERA and 36 strikeouts in 30 1/3 innings.
The Nationals signed Garcia last July, after he threw a bullpen session for a handful of their evaluators in Viera, Fla. He had been a starting prospect for the Yankees, who chose him with their third-round pick in 2004. Pat Corrales, now a Nationals’ roving minor league instructor and a baseball man for more than half a century, says three arms stood apart in the Nationals’ system this year: Alex Meyer, Nathan Karns and Garcia.
Greg Booker, the Syracuse pitching coach, said Garcia could “absolutely” get batters out in the majors right now. Garcia throws his four-seam fastball at 96 miles per hour consistently and touches 98, with a diving sinker that zips around 94. He has a 12-to-6 curve and a high-80s changeup.
“He’s definitely throwing above-average major league stuff,” Booker said.
After eight years in professional baseball and an endless rehab schedule, Garcia may get to use it in the major leagues.
Though Booker raves about Garcia’s stuff, “that’s not to say that he’s there or he’s polished or anything,” Booker said. “What he’s been through, if nothing else, the learning curve is still – he’s got some things he needs to do.”
Still, he might have done enough to earn a call-up and a spot on the 40-man roster, maybe one of the most improbable stories of September.
“I got nothing else,” Garcia said. “This is it for me. This is my livelihood. This is what I live for. Nothing ever crossed my mind to quit or anything like that. This is all I got. This is what I’m good at, and this is what I love. People go to college and spend their time trying to figure out what they love and what they’re going to do. I already know what I love, and I know what I want to do. Obviously, I’ve had some obstacles I have to overcome.”
More from The Washington Post