Can Nationals' Reliever Christian Garcia Come Back Again?

Brad Mills-US PRESSWIRE

Three surgeries on his elbow. A torn tendon in his right forearm. A hamstring injury. It hasn't been an easy couple of years for right-hander Christian Garcia. Can the Washington Nationals' hard-throwing reliever make another comeback in 2014?

Christian Garcia signed with the Washington Nationals in July of 2011, coming off his second Tommy John surgery and the third elbow surgery of his professional career. The hard-throwing former New York Yankees' prospect walked three (1.33 BB/9) and K'd 30 (13.28 K/9) in 20 1/3 IP between Class-A Auburn (18 1/3 IP) and Triple-A Syracuse (2 IP) in his first year in the Nats' system.

"For me, [Christian Garcia] has three quality pitches, he has starter stuff, and that's where we have a little shortfall." - Davey Johnson

Garcia, then 26, started his first full season in the Nationals' organization at Double-A Harrisburg in 2012, putting up a 1.80 ERA, 1.30 FIP, six walks (2.70 BB/8) and 28 Ks (12.6 K/9) in 18 games and 20.0 IP for the Senators. Garcia then moved up to Triple-A Syracuse, where the right-handed reliever dominated the competition, saving 14 games while posting a 0.56 ERA, a 1.87 FIP, 11 walks (3.06 BB/9) and 38 Ks (10.58 K/9) in 32.1 IP.

In his second season in the organization, Garcia made his major league debut with the Nationals in September of 2012, joining the NL East's first place Nats and putting up a 2.13 ERA and a 3.73 FIP with two walks (1.42 BB/9) and 15 Ks (10.66 K/9) in 13 games and 12.2 IP after he was called up to the nation's capital. In spite of his success as a reliever, the Nationals decided to transition the right-hander into starting role in Spring Training in 2013.

"He's got great stuff," Johnson told reporters last February, while explaining that there was some reluctance on Garcia's part. "I would like to see more of him rather than just one inning. But on his side, just going out there and throwing one inning got him to the big leagues, so I can understand where he's coming from too."

The experiment was short-lived. Forearm tightness shut the right-hander down early last Spring. Garcia was eventually diagnosed with a partially-torn tendon in his forearm which kept him out of competitive action until June, but a shoulder issue set him back another two weeks and in early July a hamstring injury interrupted his rehab again. Garcia returned to the mound late this season, but ended up just pitching 13 1/3 innings total in 2013.

The now-28-year-old reliever is currently pitching for the Naranjeros de Hermosillo in the Liga Mexicana del Pacifico where he has a 1.23 ERA, five walks (6.14 BB/9) and eight Ks (9.82 K/9) in 7 1/3 IP in relief.

Is there a role for the right-hander in the Nats' 2014 bullpen?

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