Garcia dazzles, Miller returns, Rosenthal survives

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - More thoughts and observations from Sunday’s 6-4 exhibition victory over the Astros ...

* Teenage prospect Luis Garcia finally had the breakout game many had been waiting to see all spring, and it indeed was something to see.

Garcia, the 18-year-old shortstop who is the youngest player in any big league camp this spring, hadn’t made a lot of noise in his first few weeks, with three hits in his first 15 at-bats. But he dazzled on Sunday, going 3-for-3 with his first two Grapefruit League RBIs.

“I hadn’t gotten too many hits, but you just come here and do your work and hope for those results,” Garcia said via interpreter Melissa Rodriguez Strozza. “So I was just happy to see that today it finally happened.”

Garcia showed off a variety of skills in his three plate appearances. He dropped a perfect drag bunt down the first base line and beat it out for a single in the top of the third.

“That’s really a part of my game,” he said.

One inning later, Garcia lined an RBI single up the middle to bring home Adrián Sanchez from second base. Two innings after that, he went the other way and lined an RBI single to left to bring home Andrew Stevenson.

Not bad for a kid with braces who has never played above Single-A and is contemporaries with high school students.

“I told him: You’re having a great senior year today!” manager Davey Martinez quipped.

Miller-Throw-Blue-Sidebar.jpg* Justin Miller returned to the mound eight days after he was shut down with a lower back injury and looked quite sharp.

The right-hander came on in the bottom of the fifth in relief of starter Jeremy Hellickson and recorded two quick outs, looking perfectly healthy. Miller was on the verge of completing a 1-2-3 inning but watched as Victor Robles lost a deep fly ball to center field in the sun, misplaying it into a double.

No harm, no foul, because Robles then caught a shallow fly ball to center by the next batter, completing Miller’s scoreless inning.

Miller, who had struggled in his only other Grapefruit League appearance on March 2, said he experienced “zero pain” in his back during this outing and isn’t worried about any lingering issues moving forward.

“I’m pretty confident it’s past,” he said. “It’s just something weird. I don’t know what it was, but something in my back just got pissed off at something. I’ve never had that issue before. But since getting the injection and waking up in the morning and getting here and doing my workouts, I’ve been fine. I’m pretty confident I’ll be fine tomorrow, too.”

If so, the Nationals will breathe a sigh of relief. They already lost Koda Glover to a forearm strain this spring and on Saturday released Sammy Solís, thinning out their candidates for a spot in the opening day bullpen. Martinez has said he expects Miller to make the club as long as he’s healthy coming out of camp.

* Though he recorded the final three outs necessary to earn the save in Sunday’s win, Trevor Rosenthal needed to throw a whopping 32 pitches to get that job done.

It was a bit of a harrowing bottom of the ninth for Rosenthal, who gave up two singles and hit a batter before buckling down to strike out the final two batters he faced.

Was Martinez worried at all about that rising pitch count for a reliever coming back from Tommy John surgery?

“I got a little concerned,” the manager said. “But for him, he’s done everything right. And to see him go out there and finish it was nice. It was good for him. He’ll get a couple days off now and we’ll see where we’re at. But he’s at 32 pitches throwing 99 (mph). That tells me a lot about where he’s at.”

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