Christian Garcia throwing off the mound, still being converted to starter

Alex Brandon/AP

Alex Brandon/AP

After a partially torn tendon in his right forearm held him out of nearly all of spring training, Christian Garcia is throwing off the mound in Viera, Fla., and could join a minor league team and pitching in games by the end of the month.

Garcia, a 27-year-old hard-throwing right-hander with a history of arm injuries, impressed in his brief stint as a September call-up last season and the Nationals hoped to stretch out his innings this spring. In mid-February, however, Garcia felt tightness in his forearm during a bullpen session during unseasonably cold weather in spring training. Garcia, who is on the disabled list, missed the rest of the spring training and was cleared to resume throwing March 31.

Garcia has been throwing bullpen sessions, using only his fastball and change-up, Manager Davey Johnson said. The reports have been good, he added, and Garcia will start throwing his curveball Thursday. The slow return to pitching isn’t because of any new setbacks; rather the team just wants to be cautious with Garcia.

Even though he has had two Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgeries, the Nationals believed the regular work of a starter could work better for Garcia than relieving. Johnson compared Garcia’s stuff to Stephen Strasburg this spring. This winter, the Nationals were also thinner at starting pitching depth than other positions. Despite the spring injury that set Garcia back, the Nationals still want to stretch him out into a starter and see how he responds on the mound.

“The plan hasn’t changed since spring training,” General Manager Mike Rizzo said. “He’s just beginning spring training now. He’s on the mound. He’s throwing fastballs. It will take a couple days. It’s still his spring training ramp-up.”

Once Garcia throws all of his pitches in bullpen sessions, he will face live hitters. Then, his innings and pitch counts will gradually increase in extended spring training in Viera. Rizzo said Garcia could be ready to join a minor league team by the end of this month or early-June. He seems like a likely candidate to join Class AAA Syracuse, where he reached last season before his major league call-up.

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