Braves gain pitching flexibility in acquiring Garcia

With Brandon Beachy returning to the disabled list because of elbow soreness, the Braves added starting-pitching depth Friday by trading for 36-year-old Freddy Garcia of the Orioles.

The Braves got the right-hander in exchange for unspecified cash considerations, and general manager Frank Wren said they would assign Garcia to Triple-A Gwinnett for the time being.

He went 3-5 with a 5.77 ERA in 11 appearances (10 starts) for Baltimore before being outrighted to Triple-A Norfolk in late June. Garcia was 8-3 with a 2.84 ERA in 13 starts for Norfolk, with 61 strikeouts in 82 1/3 innings.

The Braves hope he pitches as he did in May, when he allowed two runs or fewer in six or more innings in three of six starts. That included eight scoreless innings of three-hit ball May 30 against the Nationals.

“Frank called me this morning and said, what do you think? We’ve got a chance to get Freddy,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “And I said, why not? (Hitting coach Greg Walker) knows him from when he was with the White Sox. He’s a guy who can work his way through a major league lineup at least a couple of times through the order.

“He adds some depth. Watch him pitch a couple of times at Triple-A, and he can come up here later on in September and help us. At the very least, if we don’t think he can help us starting, he can help us in the bullpen in September.”

Garcia was 1-3 with a 10.19 ERA and .390 opponents’ average in his past five major league games, allowing 30 hits, including nine homers, in 17 2/3 innings. He was released by the Padres in the last week of spring training.

The native of Venezuela has a 155-106 record and 4.18 ERA in 370 major league games (354 starts) with six teams in 15 seasons, including consecutive 12-win seasons with the White Sox and Yankees in 2010-2011.

At the beginning of his career with the Mariners, Garcia won 16 or more games three times in a four-year span, including 18-6 in 2001, when he led the American League in innings (238 2/3) and ERA (3.05). He has plenty of postseason experience, with a 6-3 record and 3.28 ERA in 10 starts, albeit all but one game before 2006.

“He knows how to pitch,” said Walker, the White Sox hitting coach when Garcia pitched there for five seasons. “He doesn’t have all the stuff he used to have, obviously, but he knows how to pitch and get you out. As long as his arm’s still connected, he can still pitch. He’s a gutsy guy. In Chicago they used to call him ‘Big Game Freddy.’

“I don’t know how he’s throwing now, but he can get people out just on smarts.”

The Braves lost veteran starter Tim Hudson to a broken ankle last month, and Beachy had a setback Tuesday when he felt tightness in his elbow and noticed a significant drop in fastball velocity in the last two innings of his fifth start since coming back from a 13-month surgery rehab.

Without Beachy, the Braves still have five starters: Julio Teheran, Mike Minor, Kris Medlen, Alex Wood and Paul Maholm, who returned from the disabled list Wednesday. But the Braves would like to cut back on their younger starters in the next month and had planned to do that by skipping or pushing back a start or two for a few of them and plugging in a sixth starter.

Beachy to DL, Cunningham up: Beachy was placed on the 15-day DL on Friday, and switch-hitting outfielder Todd Cunningham was recalled from Gwinnett.

On Monday, Beachy will see Dr. James Andrews, who did Beachy’s Tommy John surgery in June 2012. Beachy and the Braves seem fairly confident that the tightness is from inflammation, rather than more serious ligament damage. He rested for a couple of weeks in late June when he had inflammation during the final stages of his surgery rehab.

“We’ll see what the doctor says on Monday and let him decide what road we take,” Gonzalez said. “I’m not really overly concerned (based on) what Beachy’s telling us.”

The DL move wasn’t a surprise to Beachy, who knew he would have to miss at least a start or two. Beachy, Gonzalez and pitching coach Roger McDowell all noticed the drop in velocity on the final batter he faced Tuesday, including an 82-mph fastball on his last pitch.

“That’s why I want to go find out what’s causing it,” he said. “I can feel so good and so bad in such a short period of time, without there being any event (to cause it).”

Beachy has discussed the situation with Kris Medlen and other pitchers who are veterans of Tommy John surgery.

“They say there’s different things like scar tissue,” he said. “I didn’t feel anything (pop) like that, so I don’t know. I just kind of felt tightness moving in.”