If the New York Yankees are going to make a deep playoff run in 2012, it’s likely going to be star players in a big city who will get most of the credit and all of the headlines. Of course, sometimes its the quiet contributions making the loudest impact over the course of a season.
Freddy Garcia is making his presence felt almost silently during the stretch-run for the Yankees. In April, Garcia had no fastball, no velocity and no success during a month where the Venezuelan junk-pitcher finished with a 12.51 ERA and failed to pitch out of the fifth inning in three of his four starts.
At 35-years-old the question wasn’t if he was in a slump, but was his career coming to a screeching halt and his 2011 run as a reliable arm a fluke? Was the real “Freddy” the one with an 86 mile-per-hour fastball complimented by hanging splitters and lifeless changeups?
Baseball players are evaluated on yesterday and praised for tomorrow and neither scenario looked particularly inviting for Garcia when he was booted from the rotation and buried as a long-man in the Yankees’ bullpen in May.
Garcia took his lumps and said all the right things, realizing his struggles were not helping the team win as they hovered at 11-9 on April 28th when the righty was exiled. He accepted his role and worked to improve upon it.
After a couple of months of “finding himself” Garcia has also found his better fastball and superior location of his off speed pitches, once again adding a reliable arm to the rotation when it has been needed most.
With Ivan Nova (5.97 ERA in July) struggling and Andy Pettitte recovering from a broken ankle suffered June 27th on a line drive, the Yankees have been desperate for innings out of its starters and depth in the rotation while trying to maintain a sizable division lead through July and into August.
Garcia has stepped up to the challenge, pitching to a 4.00 ERA in the month of July and winning his first start in August.
By delivering quality innings now, Freddy has allotted New York the freedom of controlling its own destiny.
The Pinstripes were able to hold off on giving away valuable prospects for a prized starter like Ryan Dempster, Cliff Lee or Zack Greinke at the trade deadline. They are able to bridge the gap to Pettitte’s September return (when the lefty will likely take Garcia’s spot in the rotation).
Finally, the veteran righty is saving innings on a bullpen poised to play a huge role in October if healthy and strong (currently ranking 4th in ERA among current contenders in the AL and first in innings pitched).
Garcia’s overall record (5-5) is not going to pop out on paper, nor will his spot in the rotation (last).
Likely, come September the spring training insurance policy will not be starting and in October he may not be pitching at all, but the veteran has risen to the occasion as the Bronx temperatures have climbed into the 90’s during the summer in the city.
For a first place team with a first place payroll, it’s the $4 million dollar pitcher who already lost his spot once this season keeping the rotation together while the Yankees gear up for another playoff run.
It’s the quiet contributor making a large impact.