LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Freddy Garcia pitched as if he may have been distracted Saturday, and it turns out he might have been.
Garcia's previously perfect spring came unraveled Saturday against the Marlins, when the Braves veteran was charged with six hits, six runs and four walks in 2-2/3 innings of a split-squad game at Champion Stadium. He gave up four hits including a homer in the two-run second inning, then walked four in the third inning before Rob Brantley’s three-run double gave the Marlins a 6-2 lead.
That ended Garcia’s outing, and the game would end in a 6-all tie after nine innings.
A few innings after Garcia left the game, a Braves spokesman said the pitcher left the ballpark immediately and headed to Miami, where his wife was in labor. Bench coach Carlos Tosca, who managed the split-squad against Miami, was asked if Garcia might've been distracted by the situation with his wife.
“That would distract me," Tosca said. "I didn’t know anything about it until just now when you mentioned it, but that would distract me."
But pitch location and movement on his split-finger fastball were what Tosca cited as key factors for Garcia's rough outing.
"I think with him today, he didn’t exactly get the outer third of the plate to get ahead (in counts), and his split-finger was really hanging in the strike zone, it wasn’t diving down.... He is what he is. He’s going to have days like that. He’s got to get the outside third of the plate, and that split’s got to be working for him.”
Garcia, 37, pitched five perfect innings with five strikeouts in his previous two starts against the Tigers and Mets, but threw just 37 strikes in 71 pitches against the Marlins and was pulled four outs shy of his planned four-inning stint.
Garcia, a former hard-throwing ace who now must rely heavily on change of speed and location to succeed, is competing for the fifth-starter spot with Alex Wood, who limited the Red Sox to two hits in three scoreless innings Friday at Fort Myers in the young left-hander’s second start. Wood has allowed five hits and no walks with four strikeouts in five scoreless innings this spring.