Right-handed power arm Christian Garcia is the ultimate example of resiliency. The 6-foot-5, 215 lb. reliever has endured a pair of Tommy John surgeries and has fought all the way back to have an amazing season in the Nationals' system.
Garcia allowed only five earned runs in 45 games between Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse. He allowed just two earned runs with the Chiefs.
He was selected by the New York Yankees in the third round in 2004, the 99th pick overall, and stayed with that organization until 2010. The Nationals signed him in July 2011 as a minor league free agent.
The Nationals called Garcia up today. His first chance to pitch in D.C. will be his major league debut. Garcia said he made it this far because he never stopped working.
"It all started in the offseason," Garcia said. "The hard work I put in in the offseason is what helped me get to this point and be successful this season. It was just having fun and throwing strikes, getting ahead of hitters, doing what I knew I could always do. I surprised a lot of people by the way I pitched, but I didn't surprise myself. I knew I could do well as long as I stayed healthy."
And that was the problem early in his career in the Yankees farm system. Garcia recovered from not one, but two Tommy John surgeries.
"It is just an obstacle," Garcia said. "It is just a bump in the road. It is nothing. You have to be mentally strong and you have to be stronger than the injury. It is going to help you put everything in perspective and really appreciate everything, dream big and never give up. No matter what happens in life in general, never quit and keep pushing. You work hard, dreams can come true."
Garcia said Syracuse pitching coach Greg Booker helped him because he let him just pitch. No big tweaks to his delivery or alterations to his mechanics.
"He let me be me," Garcia said. "He let me go out there and pitch. And do the things that I knew how to do. He taught me how to work off my fastball and use my secondary pitches when needed. He was a great pitching coach because he let go out there and let me be myself."
At 27, Garcia will be the oldest player on the Nationals' Arizona Fall League entrant, the Salt River Rafters, but he said the pair of surgeries actually helped him because he hasn't been worn down by too many innings.
"My arm has got about 300 innings in it, where most guys my age have been in this game pitching have thousands of innings," Garcia said. "To me, I feel like an 18-year old kid still. I am living a childhood dream right now so I am the happiest kid in the world."
Davey said he hasn't seen Garcia pitch yet, but he has heard about him and his 95-97 mph fastball. With the left-handers now at five in the bullpen, Garcia will help to shore up the right side.
Garcia was 1-1 with a 0.56 ERA and 14 saves in 27 games for Triple-A Syracuse.
Check out the audio of my entire chat with Garcia here.