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David O'Brien

Braves’ Garcia: I’ll be ready when bell rings

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JUPITER, Fla. – Freddy Garcia knows his last couple of starts haven’t exactly been confidence-boosters for Braves fans, but the veteran pitcher wasn’t worried after giving up six hits and four runs (three earned) in four innings of Thursday’s 11-0 Grapefruit League loss to the Cardinals.

“I give up a lot of runs lately, but I’m fine,” said Garcia, 37, who has allowed 12 hits and 10 runs (nine earned) in 6-2/3 innings over his past two starts. “It’s different when the bell rings (for the regular season). Spring training game are different. I just need to pitch better in my next couple of starts.”

Garcia came to camp as a candidate for the fifth-starter job along with talented young left-hander Alex Wood. But because of injuries to other starters, now both of them will be needed in the opening-day rotation.

After pitching five perfect innings in his first two starts, Garcia was charged with six hits, six runs and four walks in 2-2/3 innings of his third start Saturday against the Astros. He was told just before that game that his wife, Glendys, had gone into labor and was taken to a Miami area hospital, and Garcia said he rushed to get through his outing so he could drive to Miami to be with her.

Glendys and baby Sebastian – Garcia’s third child — were doing well and attended Thursday’s game on a windy day in Jupiter.

“I felt better, but it’s hard to pitch in this kind of weather,” Garcia said. “No excuse, but my ball is moving all over the place. For me, I have to throw first-pitch strikes. The last couple of innings I wasn’t able to do that.”

Once a hard-throwing ace, Garcia has lost about 10 mph on his fastball and must rely on finesse, change of speeds, and location. With the wind gusting from 20-30 mph throughout the game, Garcia said his less-than-overpowering pitches were affected and he couldn’t get ahead in counts the way he needs to in order to be successful.

“At this point (of his career) I can’t be 2-1, 3-1, I need to be ahead pretty much,” he said. “I tried to do that, but it didn’t happen. But I felt pretty good. I really wanted to go one more, but 73 pitches… I got my work in.”

When told what Garcia had said about the wind affecting him Thursday, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said, “I tend to agree with him…. It was a tough day to evaluate anything really. We misplayed some balls in the wind.”

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