Johnson: Nationals’ Garcia could be a starter next season

The Nationals have been so impressed with reliever Christian Garcia and his power arm that manager Davey Johnson said today they would consider converting the right-hander to a starter next season.

Garcia complained of right biceps fatigue following Saturday’s win over the Brewers, in which he allowed a two-run shot in the ninth to the Brewers’ Taylor Green. Johnson said Garcia was on “cruise control” before the homer, and after the homer he got “amped up.” Did he ever - Garcia struck out his final two batters to finish the game. But in doing so, might have overthrown a bit.

Garcia said he was “OK” on Sunday and Johnson gave him a day of rest. Garcia will be available to pitch in Monday’s matinee.

Continuing the conversation about how well Garcia has done with the Nationals, Johnson said they have bigger plans for the 6-foot-5 hurler.

“He has been very impressive,” Johnson said. “He was out with the three operations between ‘06 and ‘09, and was a high draft pick. I actually talked to (pitching coach Steve) McCatty about maybe even starting him. You can get a better base in his arm. He has got three pitches like a starter would have - good changeup, curveball and good fastball. So he would be a candidate for me to start next year. That is one area where our depth is a little less.

“You can always go from starting and have that regular work which is also really good for building up arm endurance and go from that to a relief role. But it is very hard, once you start the season as a reliever (to go to being a starter).

“I think he is really comfortable because he is in the major leagues as a reliever and probably wouldn’t think about starting right now, but come next spring, it might be a good way to ensure the health of his arm,” Johnson said. “Relieving is a little more irregular, but with an arm like he has got, starting might be a good option.”

This will be nothing new for Garcia because that is how he began his professional baseball career, as a starter, according to Double-A Harrisburg pitching coach Paul Menhart.

The franchise was very impressed with Garcia’s stuff from the outset, but because of the three surgeries, they wanted to bring him in as a reliever. So, conceivably next spring training the Nationals could have Ryan Perry and Garcia available to shore up the starting depth in the organization.

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