Garcia's minor deal pays off in major way

Freddy Garcia of the New York Yankees looks Freddy Garcia of the New York Yankees looks on against the Detroit Tigers during Game 1 of the ALDS. (Oct. 1, 2011) Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

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All Freddy Garcia wanted was a chance to make the team. Now, eight months after signing a minor-league deal with the Yankees, he's back in the postseason.

"It's been a long time," said Garcia, who will pitch ALDS Game 2 against the Tigers today. It will be his first postseason game since he threw seven scoreless innings and won the clinching Game 4 of the 2005 World Series for the White Sox. "You always remember good times, when I pitched in '05. I'm ready to pitch, man. I'm going to show up tomorrow and do my best."

After pouring rain halted CC Sabathia's start after 11/2 innings and Game 1 was suspended Friday night, Joe Girardi tapped rookie Ivan Nova to pitch its continuation Saturday night at the Stadium. Garcia, who initially beat out A.J. Burnett for a starting spot in the ALDS, will face Max Scherzer (15-9, 4.43) this afternoon.

Sabathia said he wanted to start again in Game 2, but Girardi made it clear that wasn't an option.

"He's only going to start one more game anyway," he said. "So I would rather have him rested than maybe a little bit fatigued."

So the responsibility will fall on Garcia's shoulders. He's given the Yankees much more than they ever could have expected, posting a 12-8 record and a 3.62 ERA. There have been bumps along the way, such as a June 7 loss to the Red Sox in which he allowed four runs in 12/3 innings. But they have been outweighed by consistent effectiveness -- so much so that Girardi and Co. felt comfortable leaving an $82.5-million pitcher out of the ALDS starting rotation.

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"I've got to be really honest to you, I've got to be happy," said Garcia, who turns 35 Thursday. "Came to spring training, try to make the team. I'm glad I did it. Signed with the Yankees. If I pitch good enough, I get a chance to get in the playoffs. They give me right now the shot to start one of the games."

Garcia said he remembers very little about his brief time -- three starts, to be exact -- as a Tiger in 2008. There's just one thing that sticks out in his memory: Comerica Park.

"I love to pitch there," he said. " . . . That's a pitcher's ballpark."

But on Sunday he'll step onto the biggest stage at Yankee Stadium in one of the biggest moments of his 13-year career. He won't get caught up in his postseason success (6-2, 3.11 ERA) or the pitcher he used to be, he said. He'll stick to what's gotten him this far: taking it one pitch at a time.

Ask Garcia about the belief that power pitchers fare better in the postseason and you're sure to be met with an edginess that's rooted in self-assurance rather than boastfulness.

"You know, I never think whatever people say," he said. "I've got to live with what I got. How many pitchers you know throw hard and they don't get people out in the postseason, the regular season? So for me, I got to go out there and be myself."

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