The Nationals’ bullpen has undergone an overhaul this week, and another reinforcement could be on the way soon in Christian Garcia. As he rehabs from a torn wrist tendon that has kept him on the disabled list all season, Garcia moved from Class AA Harrisburg to Class AAA Syracuse.
Garcia impressed last year in a September call-up and earned a spot on the postseason roster. This spring training, the Nationals planned to convert him into a starting pitcher before the tendon injury occurred on his first bullpen session of the spring. The conversion, for this year, is now “out of the question,” Manager Davey Johnson said.
In three appearances at Harrisburg, Garcia allowed one earned run in four innings on five hits and two walks, striking out four. His fastball reached 97 mph last year. Johnson said Garcia is still building arm strength, and his fastball has touched 93 mph at Harrisburg.
Garcia began his minor league rehab appearance May 31, which means the Nationals will have to either option him to the minors or add him to the major league roster by the end of June. Johnson said it will at least another three or four outings before he can return to the majors. Garcia’s rehab will likely end at roughly the same time Ryan Mattheus will be able to return from his broken right hand, which he suffered when he punched a locker May 19 in San Diego.
“It just depends on how things are going up here,” Johnson said. “He really did a good job last year. Everybody was impressed with his performance.”
The Nationals’ bullpen overhaul so far has been promising. Rather than use only one left-hander in converted starter Zach Duke, the Nationals summoned set-up lefties Ian Krol (from Harrisburg) and Fernando Abad (from Syracuse). Left-handed batters were hitting .289 off the Nationals’ bullpen. The combination of Krol and Abad should limit them and allow for better matchups for Nationals right-handed relievers.
Today, Johnson hinted that he felt he believed the plan to use Duke as the only lefty was doomed from the start.
“I like it much better now than the way it set up earlier,” Johnson said. “At the major league level, you just have to have a strong left and right side of the bullpen. I like what those two youngsters have shown up here so far. It just takes the pressure off the right side of the bullpen. It’s unfortunate. We liked Zach Duke, but it’s unfortunate that it didn’t work out, turning from a starter to a reliever. But these two guys are more suited for that role than Zach Duke was.”