Expectations will be riding high for the sophomore season of Cardinals 24-year-old left-handed pitcher Jaime Garcia. He had an impressive rookie season, boasting a 2.70 ERA, 132 Ks and 13 wins, the most of any rookie pitcher in the league. It came as no surprise to most Cardinal fans when Garcia found himself in the race for Rookie of the Year. He ended up coming in third, getting outvoted by Jason Heyward of the Atlanta Braves and the winner, Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants. There was no doubt in the minds of Cardinal fans that he was the club’s Rookie of the Year. The date for pitchers and catchers to report to Jupiter for spring training has arrived, making the anticipation for Garcia’s sophomore season begin to grow.
At the beginning of spring training last year, the role of fifth starter was still in limbo for the Cardinals coaching staff. They had three potential starters in mind who were all vying for the opportunity to start. Garcia was among the candidates, along with reliever Kyle McClellan and minor league pitcher Rich Hill. Garcia impressed the coaching staff enough to nab the coveted fifth spot in the rotation.
Garcia’s first start was on April 10, 2010, against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. It was an impressive effort by Garcia, with the Cardinals winning 7-1. Garcia’s remarkable rookie season also included his first complete game, which was consequently also a shutout, at the major league level on Aug. 22, 2010, against the San Francisco Giants.
In mid-September, CardinalsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ coaching staff and management made the decision to shut down Garcia for the rest of the season. This decision was made, not because of a lackluster performance by Garcia, but for his own good. At that point, he had pitched the most innings of his career and the Cardinals did not want to push him too far. Garcia also underwent Tommy John surgery in 2008, which was most likely a factor in the Cardinals decision to prematurely end his season. Although Garcia was opposed to being shut down, it is unknown if it would have made a significant impact at the end of the CardinalsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ disappointing 2010 campaign. Now, it remains to be seen if it will have an effect on his 2011 performance.
For Jaime GarciaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s sophomore season, I have nothing but high expectations. I think Garcia came as a very pleasant surprise for Cardinal Nation in a season that left many fans disappointed. Naturally, Garcia had games during the course of the season when he was not in top form, but that is to be expected from a starting pitcher. Even the CardinalsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ two co-aces, Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright, had off games. In my opinion, there was a point in the season when Garcia was the most consistent of the three pitchers, which says a lot about his talent considering he was in his rookie season.
I attended the Cardinals Winter Warm Up in January and met Jaime Garcia. He seemed to be in good health and he spoke about being excited for the upcoming season, in which he hopes to continue and improve the success he had from his rookie season with the Cardinals. I, along with much of Cardinal Nation, am looking forward to GarciaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s sophomore season. I think he has a lot to live up to from last season and Cardinal fans are hungry for a winning Central Division Championship season in 2011.
Garcia will most likely play a huge role in making the upcoming season a success. He has good company in Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Jake Westbrook and Kyle Lohse, and will be guided by one of the best catchers in the league in veteran Yadier Molina. I predict Garcia to exceed his record of 13-8 from last season and come back even stronger in 2011. I believe Jaime Garcia has a bright future ahead of him with the Cardinals and I wish him continued success in 2011 and the remainder of his career.
Emily W writes about the Cardinals for Aaron Miles’ Fastball. Follow her on Twitter, @emilyjune87.