Garcia says elbow “worse than yesterday”
Christian Garcia appears to be a master of deception.
And not just to opposing hitters.
The Thunder right-hander told me Tuesday that his right elbow was far from sound when he arrived in Trenton last May — a revelation that came as news to manager Tony Franklin and the Yankees.
The kid subsequently was shutdown June 10 with bone spurs, bone chips and scar tissue compressing a nerve.
Yet, he still went 2-0 with a 0.71 ERA in five starts.
Fast-forward to last night’s season-opener against Erie at Waterfront Park.
After being visited on the mound by trainer Tim Lentych and what looked to be half of South Trenton, Garcia was lifted from his first start with two outs in the top of the sixth inning. Following the 4-0 win, Garcia told reporters he began feeling discomfort in his twice surgically repaired elbow as early as the third inning.
Yet, the brittle right-hander continued to hurl two-hit baseball until finally breaking down in the sixth with a 1-2 count on Wilkin Ramirez.
One scout in attendance familiar with the pitcher’s extensive injury history called Garcia’s decision to continue pitching hurt “stupid.”
Franklin didn’t see it that way.
“I have no problem with a guy being a competitor and wanting to pitch,” Franklin said as he awaited Garcia’s MRI results prior to tonight’s game.
UPDATE: Franklin said after tonight’s 3-1 win over Erie that Garcia’s MRI results will not be made available until Saturday.
“We all have to make calls when it concerns our health – how much we can stand and what we are willing to risk. This kid has had so much surgery and it seems like all he wants to do is pitch. At what price? I don’t know. But he has paid a heavy price in the past. The Yankees will do everything they can to help see this kid through this. We are not here to ruin anyone’s career. Christian is a competitor and competitiveness makes you do a lot of things. There was no indication that he was hurt. If he had said something to me, I probably would have taken him out considering his history. But most guys aren’t going to tell you. They are going to try to pitch through it. I am always going to do what’s best for the kid.”
Chances are there is nothing Franklin, pitching coach Tommy Phelps or the Yankees’ minor-league brass could have done here, short of perhaps giving Garcia an exit MRI before leaving Tampa, which did not seem reasonable considering Garcia had pitched light’s out in spring training.
The kid has come to work hurt most of the past four years and he was going to keep doing it until he couldn’t any more.
This time Garcia – who said his elbow “feels worse than yesterday” – just has to hope he has not thrown the last pitch of what has been a tormented career.
“Like everyone else I am hoping for the best; that it’s not serious and whatever it is won’t end his season,” Franklin said.
It is worth noting the class and grace with which Garcia has handled himself in the face of obvious professional adversity.
Asked yesterday if he had his MRI results, a self-deprecating Garcia said:
“I have the films, but I don’t know how to read them.”
As he headed into the training room, Garcia turned back with a smile and continued, “after all this you’d think I’d be able to by now, right?’’
Thunder 3, Erie 1 (F)
Lance Pendleton, W,1-0
Zach Simons, L,0-1
Grant Duff, S,1
Ryan Pope turns in five strong innings – 4H, 1ER, 1BB, 7K
Pendleton gets the win after third baseman Brandon Laird drives in the go-ahead runs with a two-run triple in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Thunder start season 2-0 for the first time in, um, I don’t know … but a REALLY long time.
TOMORROW: 5:05 p.m.
Trenton LHP Jeremy Bleich (0-0, 0.00) vs. Erie LHP Duane Below (0-0, 0.00)