With the Cardinals fading out of contention for a playoff spot, left-handed rookie starter Jaime Garcia is on the verge of being shut down for the remainder of the season.
Manager Tony La Russa announced the move to reporters before Wednesday night’s game against the Chicago Cubs, saying the move was done for precautionary reasons and that his pitcher was not hurt.
Garcia had Tommy John surgery late in the 2008 season and was monitored closely by the Cardinals all season long. In his first full season since the surgery, Garcia emerged as a Rookie of the Year candidate by going 13-8 with a 2.70 ERA in 28 starts.
“He’s not hurt, it’s just precautionary and smart,” La Russa said. “It doesn’t make sense to push him. …I don’t think he wants to jeopardize his career. He’s thrown a lot of pitches. He did a lot of things when he pitched the last game that were high quality, but (pitching coach Dave Duncan) thinks just as far as the consistency of it, it’s down some. He just talked about his arm feeling a little tired and he didn’t have the same pop.
“He’s shown some fatigue here lately and ‘Dunc’ believes his stuff has flattened out a little bit. He’s not hurt but we don’t want to push it.”
La Russa said general manager John Mozeliak, Duncan and the Cardinals medical staff were all involved with him in making the decision and that Garcia will enter the 2011 season as a member of their starting rotation.
After not even being given much of a chance to make the team entering Spring Training, Garcia pitched well enough that the Cardinals had no chance but to put him in the starting rotation as a rookie.
Garcia burst onto the scene, going 7-3 with a 1.79 ERA in his first 14 starts of the season. But he struggled some in the second half of the season, going 8-6 with a 3.79 ERA from June 27 on.
Garcia’s best game came on Aug. 22, when he threw a complete game, three-hit shutout to beat that San Francisco Giants.
“Outstanding, one of the best rookie seasons by a pitcher that I can remember,” La Russa said. “Put him in the Alan Benes class, which is high praise.”
Garcia would have had three starts remaining to boost his Rookie of the Year candidacy but La Russa said that didn’t factor “even one percent” into their decision. By shutting him down, the Cardinals assure themselves of him being healthy at the start of the next season.
La Russa said Garcia may have continued to pitch if the Cardinals were in better shape in the standings. They entered Wednesday seven games behind the Cincinnati Reds with just 19 left to play.
Garcia pitched 163 1/3 innings this season, his most in five seasons of professional baseball.
Jeff Suppan will take over Garcia’s spot in the rotation. His first start will be Saturday against the Padres.