BRADENTON, Fla. – The third batter that Braves left-hander Jaime Garcia faced Tuesday was Austin Meadows, and the big-time Pirates prospect from Grayson High School in Loganville took him deep.
But after that two-run homer with one out in the first inning, Garcia gave up only one more hit and allowed only one more runner to reach second base in three innings of work during a 6-3 Braves loss in a Grapefruit League game at the historic ballpark formerly known as McKechnie Field.
“He kind of got jumped on that homer, kid got it up in the air,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “But I thought he was pretty good. I thought he was real good.”
In his second spring start, Garcia was charged with three hits, two runs and two walks with four strikeouts in three innings. After giving up a leadoff double in the first inning to Adam Frazier and the Meadows homer one out later, three other runners reached base against him on walks in the first and second innings and a ground-ball single in the third.
“Trying to throw strikes, and quality strikes,” Garcia said. “Obviously I made a couple of mistakes there early in the game. That’s part of working through some things. Everything overall feels pretty good, so I’ve just got to continue to work on my stuff…. I’ve just got to continue to work on my command of my fastball and the change-up, but that’s what spring training is for.”
Garcia displayed a sharp breaking ball as his outing wore on, particularly in the two-strikeout third inning.
He induced a double-play grounder from ex-Brave Eury Perez after Chris Bostick’s leadoff walk in the second inning. And following Adam Frazier’s leadoff single in the third he retired the next three batters on a fly (by ex-Brave Phil Gosselin) and strikeouts against the last two batters he faced, Meadows and John Jaso, the latter looking at a third strike.
“Everything feels good physically,” said Garcia, who was slowed by injuries for much of his career with the Cardinals. “I’m excited. It’s going to be good.”
His first three weeks with his new team, with former Cy Young Award winners Bartolo Colon and R.A. Dickey in the starting rotation, have been everything Garcia hoped. That trio of starters, eligible for free agency after the season, was added as the Braves aimed to compete while bridging a gap to their bevy of starting-pitching prospect on the way.
“I’ve been saying the whole time since I got here, I’m extremely excited and grateful to be a part of this team and to have an opportunity to play with these great guys,” Garcia said. “You never stop learning in this game. You can learn from anybody pretty much in this game, but when you get an opportunity to play next to Cy Young Award winners in the past, you always try to pick their brains. They’re also great people, great clubhouse and great leaders. So I’m definitely looking forward to being a part of the same team with them.”