Honestly, we never thought it would come to this: from Yankee manager, Joe Girardi, down to the most fair-weather of fans, the expectation that Freddy Garcia would be handed the ball every fifth day in the dog days of August was the stuff of nightmares. But as we wait – impatiently – for the return of Andy Pettitte to the starting five, I feel it imperative to take a moment, or seven hundred and fifty words, and laud some praise on “The Chief” – Freddy Garcia – and be thankful he was waiting in the wings to take that ball from the Skipper and give the Yankees quality starts near every time out.
Here are some numbers that back up how important Garcia has been since his re-instatement to the rotation following Pettitte’s injury; the staff has gone around approximately eight times since the beginning of July. CC Sabathia, while not dominating, is still the Ace and the #1 guy and has backed that up to a 5-0 record over his last eight starts, but I have to admit I was somewhat surprised that his tally is that good-looking.
But during that same stretch that has seen a handful of games sliced from the Yankees lead in the AL-East, Ivan Nova has been 1-4. Phil Hughes has put up a mediocre 3-3 record. Hiroki Kuroda has but a 2-1 mark with four no-decisions during that span including two that he was fairly fortunate not to get saddled with a loss as the Bomber bats have bailed him out; he gave up twelve runs in thirteen combined innings in starts against the Red Sox and the Angels.
Meanwhile, during that same time frame, long-lost Freddy Garcia, with his win on Friday night against the Blue Jays, is 4-3 with a respectable 3.83 ERA; he’s given up three runs or less in seven of those eight starts. I would have to think that if you offered that sample size to most any GM or Manager in MLB for their #5 starter they would take it – joyfully.
But here’s the thing: Freddy Garcia wasn’t even our #5 guy this year; with the additions this past winter of Michael Pineda (we don’t seem to hear a word about his progress), the aforementioned Kuroda and the return of Andy Pettitte, Garcia was the seventh man in a five man rotation. Whether the affable Bartolo Colon should have been the washed-up, over-the-hill starter Brian Cashman kept or not, Yankee fans really should be pleased with what Garcia has delivered after being pulled out of the mothballs in July.
Yankee fans were calling for Freddy’s release this Spring Training when the seemingly strong additions were made to the staff. When pressed into the rotation to get the season started, Garcia was awful; he had no velocity on his fastball and the rest of his pitches suffered the consequences. Yankee fans with short memories would have packed him off to Pittsburgh to get AJ Burnett back. Garcia was relegated to the last spot in the bullpen.
Not since the days of pitchers getting so deep in Billy Martin’s dog-house and never seeing the mound for extended periods of time do I recall a healthy, Yankee pitcher disappearing like that. Honestly, there were a few times during that time of his exile that I had to check to see if I had missed a story about Freddy Garcia being released, traded or having joined the French Foreign Legion; he was just gone. But unlike some veterans who can remain nameless (Yes, I am writing about Roy Oswalt) Garcia didn’t whine and he didn’t bitch and he didn’t refuse to throw on those occasions that Joe Girardi remembered to call for #36.
And while I don’t really want to open the can of worms about the New York Yankees capping the 2014 team salary at $189M to avoid the luxury tax, it’s a luxury that the Bombers can seemingly afford, and one that we may regret should spots on the squad be filled with prospects over proven, veteran pieces who can step in when injuries strike—those players who have saved the 2012 Yankee season. No other baseball team places that money at the bottom of the roster: the $4M that Cashman scraped together to pay “The Chief” this year was a fine investment to the team’s depth as Freddy Garcia has kept the Yankees in the game when his number gets called – even if he was the seventh guy called.