Garcia signs with Tigers
Veteran right-hander will go to Minors to continue comeback
DETROIT -- For Freddy Garcia and the Tigers, it's worth a shot.
With the Minor League contract agreed to on Tuesday, Garcia gets a chance to pitch in games this year, potentially in the Majors before the season is up, and then hit the free-agent market. The Tigers get potential depth in their starting pitching for the stretch run while also having a leg up to sign him this offseason if things go well.
The deal contains no guarantees for a big league callup and no language about next season. With a low risk for both sides and the potential for a high reward, as both sides said, it was worth a look. What the Tigers and Garcia do with it from here remains to be seen.
"He's a proven big league pitcher at a time in which it's hard to find pitching," Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said. "He's always pitched well. He's healthy now after the surgery. It's just he needs to build up his arm strength. I don't know if there's enough time to do it, but we also figure that we don't have anything to lose to try."
The signing connects Garcia's summer-long comeback attempt with a destination, albeit a team whose playoff hopes have faded over the past two weeks. Detroit entered play on Tuesday in third place in the American League Central, eight games behind the division-leading Twins, but their pitching staff has been a source for concern.
That's a common theme around baseball, and it was a reason why scouts from 15 teams showed up to watch Garcia throw a mound session a week ago in Miami. But he has yet to pitch to batters, and he's still a little ways away from pitching, making him a question mark.
Enter the Tigers.
"The Tigers were very aggressive in their interest," said Chris Leible, speaking for agent Peter Greenberg. "They gave him a situation where he can come in and get back to pitching. It's a good situation. It's a great organization."
If Garcia can find a semblance of his old form, it's also good pitching. The 32-year-old right-hander won at least 12 games in seven of his first eight Major League seasons, including a 17-9 record for the White Sox in 2006. He beat the Tigers four times that year, making him a big reason Chicago was such a thorn for Detroit.
Garcia has a 117-76 record in 263 games over nine Major League seasons with the Mariners, White Sox and Phillies.
"He's been a winner for almost all his career," said Tigers third baseman Carlos Guillen, a close friend and ex-teammate of Garcia. "He's consistent. And this ballpark [Comerica], I think, is good for him."
Beyond the success was his durability; he pitched at least 200 innings in six straight seasons. Last year was the season when all that came to an end.
Dealt in the 2006 offseason for Gavin Floyd and a prospect, Garcia went 1-5 with a 5.90 ERA in 11 starts with Philadelphia last year before undergoing season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum, the first lengthy absence of his career.
He has spent this year working his way back into pitching shape. It has been a slow, frustrating process, enough so that White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said last month that he doubted Garcia would be ready for the stretch run.
"It's been tough," Guillen said. "I've talked to him. He cries sometimes when he watches baseball games. He plays for passion. That's why he wants to play with a winning team. He wants to win.
"He wants to do the best for the team. That's why he's hurt. When he pitched in Chicago, he took another chance, another chance, another chance and then he got hurt."
The results from last week's mound session showed he needs more time, though he has pitched in games with similar velocity. Tigers special assistant Dick Egan saw at least the components for potential success.
"He liked what he saw," Dombrowski said. "His breaking ball was there. His changeup was there. The ratios, the differences in his velocity with those pitches were good. But he said he just needs to build up his arm strength. He was about 85-87 [mph] when he threw down there in Miami. How long it will take to come back, I really have no idea."
Nobody really does. Garcia, for his part, is upbeat.
"Right now, I'm feeling really good," he told reporters in a phone call set up by Carlos Guillen.
For now, he'll throw on the side at the Tigers' Spring Training complex in Lakeland, Fla., before pitching in at least one game for the Class A team there. He'll move from there to Triple-A Toledo.
How he does there will determine whether and when he gets to the big leagues. The Tigers don't have to bring him up by any particular point, and Garcia can simply walk at year's end.
"There's no commitment as far as coming [up] here," Dombrowski said, "but it also gives him a better feel of our organization and us a better feel for him if anything happens for next year, but there are no commitments in regards to next year whatsoever. We'll see if he can get himself in shape to pitch for us this year."
Essentially, it's a wait-and-see scenario, and it gets him pitching in live games. What happens from here could make it a nice addition or just a shot.
"Take a shot. See what happens," manager Jim Leyland said. "I don't think either party has anything to lose, but I think it's a good deal for both parties. He's in the fold with us right now. We can take a look at him. He's obviously free at the end of the year. He can make a decision and we can make a decision."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.