A short two months ago, the Phillies went into winter meetings missing a couple of crucial ingredients necessary to challenge and hopefully surpass the Mets and to achieve at higher levels.
But then, as Inguirer staff writer Todd Zolecki writes;
Their outlook suddenly changed.
The Phillies, who officially opened camp yesterday with pitchers and catchers reporting at Bright House Networks Field, became serious challengers of the New York Mets, who finished first in the National League East by 12 games last season. And they are challengers mostly because Garcia joined a rotation expected to include Brett Myers, Cole Hamels, Adam Eaton and Jamie Moyer - with Jon Lieber believed to be the odd man out and headed elsewhere.
It’s a rotation that could be one of the best in the National League.
“I’m excited to be a part of this staff,” Garcia said. “I’ve been in a good rotation before, and we’ve got to challenge this year. We’re in a very good situation. We’re in a good division, but with the talent we have, we have a chance to be all right… . We have the guys. We have the people. The last three years, I’ve been watching their games, and it’s always been almost. Always playing good in September. Like they say, 85, 88 wins. We’ve got to do more.”
Garcia was 17-9 with a 4.53 earned run average last season. He is 116-71 with a 4.01 ERA in his eight-year career, and 5-2 with a 3.11 ERA in nine postseason starts. Centerfielder Aaron Rowand, who won a World Series with Garcia in Chicago in 2005, calls Garcia the ultimate big-game pitcher.
Moyer sees that and more.
“He’s developed into the pitcher that everybody expected he would be,” said Moyer, who pitched with Garcia in Seattle. “He’s a workhorse. I’ve always been a believer that a rotation needs to eat up innings.
“In a season, there are X amount of innings that need to be pitched. If you can have your rotation pick up some innings, it’s important. Hopefully, it takes away some of the less meaningful innings from the bullpen. That way, your bullpen is sharper and fresher in meaningful innings, especially as the season goes on. Then, if you’re fortunate enough to get into the postseason, they’re still somewhat fresh.”
Garcia has pitched 200 or more innings in the last six seasons, and in seven of eight overall. He admitted he tired late in the year after pitching in the World Series in 2005 and the World Baseball Classic last March, but said he was well-rested coming into spring training.
If he is rested and pitches the way he is capable of pitching - and the rest of the rotation is healthy - the Phillies should have a chance to win every day. That isn’t the way it was when the Phils trotted out Paul Abbott, Gavin Floyd, Brandon Duckworth, etc.
This is an important year for Garcia. He will be a free agent after the season, so he has motivation to pitch well. The Phillies haven’t yet talked with Garcia about an extension, and aren’t expected to address one until after the season.
The Phillies still have a couple of other questions to resolve; whether or not, as Bill Conlin writes, Pat Burrell will stay in the number 5 slot of the lineup or whether Shane Victorino will lead off, dropping Jimmy Rollins with his 25 HRs, 83 RBIs and .277 BA from leadoff to #5 behind Ryan Howard with Burrell batting 6th, and solidifying the bullpen and giving Tom Gordon closing support.
Spring Training hopefully will give some good answers to these final questions in time for the Phils to hit the ground running on opening day.