Garcia gives up homer in spring debut for Braves

Jaime Garcia has made 158 big-league starts over eight seasons wile posting a 3.57 ERA. There’s no mystery about the left-hander’s ability to be an effective major league pitcher so spring training for Garcia is about getting ready.

In his first spring start with the Braves, Garcia gave up a solo homer, a single and a walk over two innings against the Yankees.

“I think the main thing is getting your body going and working on the timing and working on some of the pitches and executing the pitches,” Garcia said. “I was a little jumpy there in the first inning but, overall, I felt pretty good.”

Jacob Ellsbury, the second batter Garcia faced, turned on his 3-1 pitch and sent it deep into the right-field stands and Sterling Castro followed with a single before Garcia retired the next two hitters to end the inning.

Garcia faced four batters in the second inning when he issued a two-out walk to Aaron Judge on a close ball four. Garcia said it took him some time to settle down.

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“First game of the spring and stuff happens,” he said. “But overall it was good.”

The Braves acquired Garcia in a December trade with the Cardinals. He was the last of three veterans they added after last season in an effort to stabilize their erratic starting rotation.

Garcia figures to help with that goal if he can stay healthy. Injuries have hampered him during his career. The Braves hope that Garcia’s 30 starts last season, his most since 2011, are a sign that he can be a reliable part of their rotation.

“I’m very grateful excited and grateful to be a part of this team and what they’ve got going on,” Garcia said. “I love my teammates and the coaching staff. The first couple weeks have been a great experience so far.”

Garcia, 30, will fill a unique niche in the Braves’ eclectic rotation—and not just because he’s the only lefty.

Right-hander Julio Teheran, 26, is a two-time All-Star and the established ace. Bartolo Colon, 43, is steady and reliable. R.A. Dickey, 42, is a knuckleball pitcher. The fifth spot is likely to go to an unproven young pitcher.

That leaves Garcia in the middle. He’s older than Teheran and younger than the two long-time veterans. He had a strong season with the Cardinals in 2015 with a 2.43 ERA but was limited to 129 2/3 innings over 20 starts.

Garcia was very good through his first 11 starts of 2016 with a 3.48 ERA, .260 opponents’ batting average and .300 on-base percentage allowed. But over his next 18 starts he had a 5.40 ERA, .296 opponents’ batting average and .353 OBP allowed.

The Braves gave up right-hander John Gant and a pair of prospects for Garcia. He’s set to make $12 million in the final year of his contract.

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