May 30, 2013; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Freddy Garcia (38) throws in the first inning against the Washington Nationals at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Orioles’ Garcia: The Value of Strike One

Orioles pitching coach Rick Adair walked down the dugout in the 8thinning and said to Kevin Gausman and Chris Tillman, who were sitting together on the bench, “Are you guys watching what Freddy is doing here tonight by pitching ahead of the hitters? Do you see how this makes all the difference in a game and can get you deep into it?”  Okay, no, I don’t know if that conversation actually happened like that tonight. It certainly could have, and if it didn’t, it should have.

Simply stated, Freddy Garcia pitched a total gem. Facing a total of 27 batters, he gave up only three hits while holding the Nationals scoreless over eight innings. Of those 27 batters, Garcia threw a strike on the first pitch to 21 of them. He only had one 2-0 count and one 3-0 count, battling back to get both hitters. Garcia had good command of all his pitches, with lots of movement and placement on the edges. Throwing strike one allows a pitcher to work the corners and make the hitters chase his pitches on his terms. Too often, the very opposite happens with Orioles pitchers who are in the batters’ hands, as O’s hurlers have to battle back in the count.

I’ll confess that I was not excited about the addition of Freddy Garcia. And honestly, I would rather that some of the long-term anticipated talents like Jake Arrieta and Zach Britton would be a lights-out part of the rotation. I’d rather see young guys like Gausman or even Jurrjens doing what Garcia did tonight. But until they figure out a way of pitching like this 36-year-old veteran did tonight, Orioles fans can be thankful for the lessons and place-holding Garcia may well provide the team in the meantime.

Garcia now has a career record of 154-103 (2-2 with the Orioles). His career ERA (coming into the came this evening) was 4.15 with a WHIP of 1.304.  For the six games now pitched with the Orioles, his ERA is 3.57 and WHIP is 1.019.  This could be a very valuable acquisition for the Birds if this sort of performance can be maintained for the season. Garcia is not a part of any long-term story for the Orioles, but he could be a significant bridge to the future.

Check back to Birds Watcher early in the morning for Domenic’s fuller recap of the game tonight, certainly highlighting critical RBI doubles and defensive plays by Nick Markakis and Manny Machado.

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