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Luis García excels in unexpected debut for the Washington Nationals

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The team’s No. 2 prospect had two hits and drove in two as a last-minute fill-in for the injured Starlin Castro.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Baltimore Orioles
Washington Nationals second baseman Luis Garcia celebrates after his two-run double in the eighth inning of Friday night’s 15-3 romp over the Baltimore Orioles. Garcia was 2-for-5 with two RBI in his major league debut.
Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Luis García’s first major league action came sooner than expected for almost anyone — except him.

The 20-year-old had never played above class Double-A in the minors but was called into into action Friday night after starting second baseman Starlin Castro broke his wrist in the resumption of a suspended game Friday afternoon.

García said he wasn’t surprised when he was was selected from the offsite squad in Fredericksburg, Va., before Friday’s regularly scheduled game, a 15-3 Nationals victory.

“I was ready for any moment they needed me,” García said in Spanish afterward through interpreter Octavio Martinez. “So once I got the phone call that I was called up I was excited, but at the same time I was expecting it at any moment.”

Garcia said his fellow Dominican-born teammates, Juan Soto and Victor Robles, helped him feel comfortable in his major league debut, even if they didn’t believe he wasn’t nervous.

“They were saying, ‘Oh, you’re just lying, you’ve got to be nervous to be out here with these big leaguers,’” he said. “But they kept telling me, you know, just remember it’s the same game as down in the minor leagues, and the only difference is there are big league ballplayers and a big league ball field, but relax, enjoy yourself, have fun and enjoy this moment.”

García seemed comfortable at the plate in the second inning when he reached base, grounding into a force play. He came around to score his first big league run on Yan Gomes’ two-run triple.

His first hit came an inning later, when he took a 2-1 slider from Baltimore lefty Tommy Milone to the opposite field for a single ahead of Carter Kieboom’s RBI single.

“I liked his at bats,” manager Davey Martinez said postgame. “He went up there against some left-handed pitching today, and he stood his ground. He was good. We knew that about him.”

“Little by little, I started feeling better as the game progressed, and I never really got nervous at any point,” García said. “After I got the base hit I even relaxed even more than what I was to begin with.”

García’s first big league extra-base hit and runs batted in came in the Nats’ six-run eighth, when he hammered a Cody Carroll fastball to the right field wall, driving in Howie Kendrick and Juan Soto.

García signed in 2016 as a teenager for $1.3 million. He’s a versatile infielder who has shown promise, but the Nationals were not were not expecting him to be ready for the major leagues this season. They signed Castro to a two-year, $12 million deal to be their second baseman until he was.

García’s last full season was at class Double-A Harrisburg, where he hit .257/.280/.337 in 129 games with 22 doubles, four triples and four homers.

“He can play second, short. He’s got a good glove, “ said Martinez. “He’s just a kid with a lot of energy.”

García, third baseman Kieboom and shortstop Trea Turner, who came via trade, all developed in the Nationals’ minor league system, and all have advanced to the major leagues in four seasons or fewer. García’s ascension to the major leagues after 305 minor league games is fairly remarkable, but still not as fast as Soto, who played just 122 minor league games before he was promoted to the big league club in 2018.

Martinez said afterward that watching García and Kieboom in the same lineup, he enjoyed seeing the organization’s two prodigies play together in the big leagues for the first time.

“It was a lot of fun watching those two guys play and do well,” he said.