Thinking About Garcia’s Potential Relief Role

JoVa reassigned to minor league camp
2012 Season Preview: The Boston Red Sox
The Venezuelan Gangster? (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Barring something unforeseen, Phil Hughes is likely to break camp as the fifth starter. That will relegate Freddy Garcia to bullpen duty for the first time in his career, which I’m sure will be a bitter pill for him to swallow even though he’s reportedly willing to work in relief. A long man is a necessarily evil, especially early in the season when the starters are still getting into their routines and the weather can become a factor, but there might be a better way for the Yankees to deploy Garcia in relief. They could turn him into 2009 Al Aceves.

In essence, the Yankees could use Freddy as a multi-inning middle reliever. Traditional long men are saved for extra innings or blowouts or things of that nature, but that’s not what Aceves did three years ago. He was a jack of all bullpen trades, getting one out in a tight spot or throwing three innings to bridge the gap between starter and Mariano Rivera. Aceves was able to do that because he had a starter’s repertoire, bringing four pitches and command to the table. Garcia is the same way, with the stamina to throw multiple innings and the stuff to go through a lineup multiple times. Anecdotally, he seems to have the mentality for it as well.

Now, this is one of those things that sounds great in theory but is much more difficult to put into practice. Garcia, 35, is nine years older than Aceves was back in 2009, meaning it would be foolish to think he will be able to bounce back as well or as quickly. Add in those major shoulder problems from a few years ago, and his ability to rebound is a very real question. Aceves had a rubber arm and warmed up quickly, making him the ideal candidate for such a role. At this point it’s unclear if Garcia is physically capable of being used in this manner.

The Yankees have a rare luxury at the moment, employing six legitimate big league starters come Opening Day. Garcia is likely to get the short end of the stick and open the season as a reliever, but the team can do better than relegate him to low-leverage long relief spots. Freddy is a better pitcher than anyone in the bullpen other than the big end-game trio in the bullpen, so I’d like to see the Yankees give him a little more responsibility if possible. Again, it’s all about Garcia’s ability to do the physically. I don’t think there are any questions about his stuff, command, and mentality, it’s just a matter of his arm holding up.

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JoVa reassigned to minor league camp
2012 Season Preview: The Boston Red Sox
  • the big dumbo

    better than cory wade

  • Mike Myers

    im really shocked they cant find a buyer for Freddy. He is cheap and decent for a 4/5. maybe they will have more leverage after players start getting hurt in a month.

  • Jim M

    I would refrain from using Freddy to close innings. I would use Wade or the second loogy to close an inning, and prep Garcia to go in for the next full inning. I would then expect to have him, depending on the inning he comes in, pitch at least through the seventh, to lessen the impact on the rest of the bullpen for that game and hopefully the next.

  • Typical MIT Nerd

    I’m surprised you don’t mention hughes. How long of leash does he get? Until Pettitte is back? So Sweaty Freddy is the “In Case of Emergency” starter?

    • Alkaline

      For now, yes. I wouldn’t be surprised to have to use 7-8 different starters this year.

      • Sayid J.

        Obviously. I’d be surprised if they DIDN’T use 7-8 starters this year.

  • Mike HC

    I’m starting to think that Garcia is probably one of our best five starters, up to possibly 3rd best. With winning the division so important this year, along with the AL being absolutely loaded with talent, maybe it is not such a good idea to give the benefit of the doubt to the young guys automatically.

    I heard that Hughes is locked into a spot, and that Nova, Pineda and Garcia are still battling for the 5th spot. It might not be such a bad idea to use Garcia as the 5th man, and Nova as the long man.

    • DM

      I agree. Despite pitching well last year and continuing on thru this ST, he’s still the ugly duckling for some reason. And sadly I think he’d still be the odd man out even if those other young guys (with options left) weren’t pitching as well. He gives a different look than the rest of the rotation too. I would’ve like to see him sandwiched in between the two hardest throwers in the rotation.

    • Typical MIT Nerd

      Why is Hughes locked into a spot? Based purely on 2011 he should be on the outside looking in.

      • Mike HC

        Just saying what the word is. I don’t know the reason, but my guess is they are basically pot committed and reputations on the line.

        • Billion$Bullpen

          I agree on all these with everybody. I think Freddy is one of the best 5 starters we have easily at this point. Even if the Yankees think there is a reason to move him why not start him in the rotation and then trade him when the first team that has a need sees he is better than what they have?

          The only reason nobody is knocking on their door now is because they know there is a glut over here and maybe they can get him (or somebody else) cheap.

          • DM

            “The only reason nobody is knocking on their door now is because they know there is a glut over here and maybe they can get him (or somebody else) cheap.”

            Not sure I buy this — or the idea that Garcia is being shopped right now. They have a valuable asset. They just need to wait. I’m sure Cashman has been getting calls on all his starters except CC and Kiroda.

  • DM

    I don’t see him being used like Aceves (which was basically any scenario); and his current stuff requires more touch and feel. Aceves had enough gas to try to overpower for an out. FG isn’t like that. One the starters will get banged around in the first week and come out of a game early; he’ll come in then mirror that guy in the rotation. If all starters are rolling out of the gate, he’ll pitch a “get some work” inning or 2 if there’s a big lead.

  • Sweet Dick Willie

    Not saying I endorse the idea, but optioning Nova and keeping Garcia in the rotation is also a possibility.

  • Nick

    Can someone remind me why the hell we got rid of Aceves in the first place. That’s got to be up there on a list of stupid decisions.

    • jsbrendog

      because he had chronic back problems and on top of that during his rehab had a motorcylce accident i believe and broke his collarbone and was no guarantee to come back.

      obviously it was the wrong call but i cant blame them as much knowing all the facts

      • DM

        It was actually a mountain bike accident. And he kept sliding back in his rehab (suspiciously at times — El Duque-esque). He also wanted a major league deal, but Cashman only offered a minor league deal due to his health issues.

        • jsbrendog

          yeah all that combined and it wasn’t the wrong decision. at the time.

    • STONE COLD Austin Romine

      Hindsight is a bitch.

    • Mike HC

      Because you can’t predict who is going to show up to spring training throwing 5 mph faster than the previous year while also coming off a back injury.

      • Billion$Bullpen

        What I did not get then and I still do not get is Al always had some health issues but seemed to tough through them and be a true gamer and down for whatever. Why cut bait on a guy like this because he would not be expensive. This is another product of roster grid lock with all the big contracts.

        • Mike HC

          You are right. He seemed like the type of guy you would want to bet on, rather than against. Maybe the Yanks were turned off by his perceived lack of rehab effort like was commented on above. I don’t know.

          • DM

            I hated to see him go at the time regardless — but there was something more to that move. And I think Aceves became much more motivated after that. He whipped himself into great shape (but don’t forget, he didn’t make the Red Sox out of ST). He may not have worked as hard to bounce back if the Yankees had given him guaranteed money. He had to sing for his supper again, and he did. But the back could still go at any time; he’s not really fixed.

            • Mike HC

              I think you may be on to something …

              Plus, back injuries usually don’t disappear, or you get other injuries because you are overcompensating to take pressure off the back.

        • Ted Nelson

          Giving Aceves an MLB deal would seem to be a case of increasing “roster grip lock.” In all likelihood they wouldn’t have kept Colon or Ayala if Aceves’ deal was guaranteed. They might not find Wade, either. I’d take Aceves over Ayala or Wade, but it’s not the biggest deal in the world. Maybe they win one more game last season, we’ll have to see what happens this season.

  • Unravelled Santana

    Facing Pineda heat for 6 innings then going right to facing freddy’s shlop has got to be a challenge.

    • Billion$Bullpen

      LOL is this a joke?

  • Ted Nelson

    Good analysis

  • STONE COLD Austin Romine

    Well since it’s been reported on by Chad Jennings that the Yankees will involve thier 12 best pitchers in the Rotation/Bullpen. By any chance does one want to take a non-biased educated guess on who those 12 individuals might be ?

    • STONE COLD Austin Romine

      In replying to my own question I’d guess

      (***Not in the order of rotation spots***)
      Sabathia
      Kuroda
      Hughes (no I’m not making him the #3 starter but in all honesty it could be interchangeable between #3-5.)
      Pineda
      Nova
      LR- Kontos
      Loogy – Rapada
      Multi inning reliever – Garcia
      Logan
      Soriano
      Robertson
      Rivera
      (Wade gets optioned down).

      • Ted Nelson

        I believe Kontos has already been sent down.

        • DM

          Yes, right after he finally got healthy.

    • Chrisis

      My guess, in no particular order:
      Sabathia, Kuroda, Pineda, Nova, Garcia,
      Hughes, Rivera, Soriano, Robertson, Logan,
      Wade, Cabral

      The fun starts when Pettite, Chamberlain and Aardsma return though.

      • jsbrendog

        eh, i wouldnt bet on joba. aardsma prob replace either wade or cabral, and pettitte…well, effed if i know. someone prob gets hurt and it clears it all up.

        • All Praise Be To Mo

          Aardsma we wouldn’t have until July-August at the earliest if I recall correctly. By then, things will sort themselves out with injury or performance.

    • Ted Nelson

      My guess is (if true) that could mean Cabral over Rapada. Just thinking that because Cabral probably has the advantage of being the better pitcher, while Rapada could adequately fill a role as a LOOGY.

      • Guest

        Cabral has better stuff and is younger, but is he actually a more effective pitcher for his role than Rapada would be?

        Cabral may have a better shot against righties than Rapada, but doesn’t every other pitcher in the bullpen have a better shot against righties than Cabral? I would presume then that Girardi would have Cabral face approximately the same number of righties in key situations — which is to say, next to none.

        So if its purely who will be better against lefties in a tight spot in the sixth inning (or later in the game if Logan isn’t available), its got to be Rapada, no?

        And I don’t think the “he might turn into something” argument is very strong for Cabral. The Yankees have quite a few non-LOOGY relievers (or starters who will become relievers) who have better potential than Cabral. They don’t need to keep him around due to a lack of non-LOOGY reliever depth. They have plenty of that.

        • Ted Nelson

          I was referring to the semantics of the rumor. The rumor is that they will take their “best pitchers,” not “the best group of specialists for their roles” or “their best staff.” I might be reading into it wrong, but the way I am reading into that rumor (if true) is that they will take their best arms regardless of role. Otherwise, why would you say you’re going to take your 12 best pitchers? Isn’t that just stating the obvious.

          As far as your points, I don’t really have a problem with keeping either. Ideally I’d like to see them keep Rapada while getting Cabral to agree to elect free agency rather than return to the Red Sox, then sign a minor league deal or even 40 man deal with the Yankees.

          If Cabral doesn’t indicate he’d be interested in going that route, I’d keep him over Rapada. I think you’re underselling Cabral. How many MLB ready guys do the Yankees have that are better than Cabral? They have their AAA starters, but is it the best move to put one of them in the bullpen? Otherwise I’d call it a draw with Kontos, maybe, and that’s it.

  • Nick

    In other news, Jesus goes 0/4 in the season opener. I think we have now waited long enough to declare the trade an unqualified success!

    #mayormaynotbeanactualfact

    • Monterowasdinero

      off topic and just…dumb

      I’d keep Freddy around. Not sold on Hughes after 3-4 innings…yet

      • DM

        Hmmm… And daily updates from Montero’s ST games was…

    • DM

      At this point I’m more interested in when/if they decide to catch him during the 1st go round of the rotation. He should at least start behind the plate when Noesi pitches.

  • Kosmo

    I just don´t see Garcia getting up and down in the bullpen to warmup day in day out and then expecting to have command of all his pitches. He´s a 35 year old SP with diminished velocity with location being his biggest asset.
    I still suspect Garcia will be traded by opening day or at the latest when Pettitte returns sometime early May.

  • aluis

    Trade Freddy for Ace straight-up!

  • CJ

    Don’t think it’s a matter of attitude. Simply don’t think he can warm up fast or pitch on short rest with age, arm issues and a lifelong starter routine. Can’t just stash him on bench and start him when needed like fantasy baseball. Spot start should come from Scranton rotation. Freddy will be gone in a couple of weeks barring a SP injury. Yanks may have to eat as much as $2 million though.

    • Ted Nelson

      Why would the Yankees have to eat $2 million?