Ex-Yankees prospect Garcia making big impression after a pair of Tommy John surgeries

The Nationals took a chance two years ago with a former Yankees pitcher coming off a major shoulder surgery.

Chien-Ming Wang paid dividends for the Nationals' patience with a tremendous return to the big leagues, winning four of his last five decisions, and gaining his confidence and strength back. He had 16 strikeouts and no walks in his final four starts.

Several times this summer with the Nats, Wang looked like the back-to-back 19-game winner from New York in 2006 and 2007.

Once again, the Nationals have mined the Yankees for castoffs and believe they have found another gem.

Right-hander Christian Garcia, who began his career in the Yankees organization, has recovered from not one, but two Tommy John ligament replacement surgeries.

The 26-year old from Miami, Fla., was signed last summer by the Nationals after pitching in only six games the last two years.

The former big-time Yankees prospect, a third-rounder from the 2004 draft, worked his way back to form with solid performances at short-season Single-A Auburn, going 3-1 with a 2.95 ERA, 28 strikeouts and only two walks in 18 1/3 innings.

Garcia was invited to participate in the Nationals instructional league camp last month. His stuff jumps off the page, according to Nationals director of player development Doug Harris.

"Garcia has a 95 mph fastball with good sink, a hard curve and a good changeup," said Harris. "He will be an interesting guy to watch next season."

Harris said the Nationals' medical staff assured him that Garcia's arm is solid despite two Tommy John procedures.

"It is a credit to our coaching staff and team doctors," Harris said. "They believe Garcia's arm is medically solid. We feel confident taking a shot on a guy like this."

To see Garcia hit 95 mph after two Tommy Johns is attention-getting in itself. The righty made one appearance with Triple-A Syracuse during the summer, going two innings without allowing a hit, with one walk and two strikeouts.

If Garcia has indeed approached the promise he showed early in his Yankees career, the Nationals may once again have found a pitcher another team felt was damaged goods and made something of him.

Follow Byron Kerr on Twitter: @bkerr32

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