08/28/2002 6:49 pm ET
Garland tosses first complete game
By Jimmy Greenfield / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- For all Jon Garland's youth, he's still an old 22 and now that he's thrown a game worthy of any veteran there's no turning back.
Making his 56th career start, Garland tossed the first complete game and shutout of his career by allowing six hits in an 8-0 victory over Toronto Wednesday afternoon at Comiskey Park.
After moving in and out of the rotation the last two seasons, Garland has not missed a start this year even when he was pitching poorly enough that being yanked wouldn't have come as a great surprise.
But bouyed by the Sox committment to him -- plus the fact that their options were limited anyway -- Garland has hung in there during a trying season and, well, never stopped trying.
"It's been a big learning experience for me," Garland said. "This is my first full season being able to stay as a starter up to now. Hopefully, I can continue from there and keep building throughout my career."
It had been six weeks and eight starts since Garland's last victory on July 14 at Detroit. Since then he had gone a deceptively poor 0-4 with a 6.94 ERA. However, those numbers were deceiving. In his three no-decisions he allowed only four earned runs over 19 2/3 innings.
Garland has been a model of inconsistency. At one point this season he gave up at least four earned runs in six straight starts but has also allowed allowed one run or fewer on seven occasions.
White Sox manager Jerry Manuel expects Garland to turn the corner now, whether it's in his next start against Toronto or perhaps next season if a strike wipes out the rest of the season.
"It was outstanding," Manuel said. "He did some things on the side, had a little bit better intensity in his side work and I think that equated into a good outing for him. I was very happy to see that, we all felt that he has that potential to do that. It's time now to see that on a consistent basis."
Garland's best start of the season prior to Wednesday came in Boston last May when he threw eight shutout innings before tiring in the ninth and getting pulled before he could get an out.
That was the only time he had ever pitched into the ninth inning in his career. Going the distance was more than just a source of pride, it was essential to his growth and could help him down the line.
"I think I just kept my focus there," Garland said. "Some games I kind of wander off a little bit but I told myself from pitch one to keep the focus and keep strong throughout the game no matter how long you go."
Manuel pulled Mark Buehrle after nine innings and 100 pitches on Tuesday night but he let Garland start the ninth after having thrown 95 pitches through eight.
Garland was at his strongest at the end as he struck out Chris Woodward and Carlos Delgado before getting Vernon Wells to ground out to end the game. He finished having thrown 117 pitches, by far the most of his career.
"He had a shutout going, he was hitting his spots," Manuel said, explaining why he left Garland in the game. "He was still good enough to strike out a (couple of) batters in the ninth inning."
Now that Garland has seen the ninth inning he intends to find himself there again, and he knows how to get back.
"Remember what I did on the mound," Garland said. "Keep that focus and understand what I was doing and not let that get away from me. The muscle memory of knowing how that felt from pitch one to the last pitch."
After Wednesday's game the Sox clubhouse was a bit more crowded than usual as more media came out to report on what could be the final game of the season due to a possible strike.
Players were clearing their lockers as a precaution and reps Jeff Liefer and Kelly Wunsch were tracking down phone numbers to maintain lines of communication in the event of a work stoppage, or better yet in the event a work stoppage is called off.
Garland's efforts on Wednesday only briefly overshadowed the spectre of the strike, which he obviously hopes doesn't happen, especially since his next start will come with so much to build on.
"I'd like to go back out there after this and continue but we'll see what happens," Garland said. "I think it can go either way. Hopefully it gets done and we continue to play."
Jimmy Greenfield covers the White Sox for MLB.com and can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.