Garcia ready to step into relief role

Garcia ready to step into relief role

PITTSBURGH -- Prior to Thursday's game against Philadelphia, the Cardinals purchased the contract of lefty pitcher Jaime Garcia from Triple-A Memphis and placed left-hander Mark Mulder on the 15-day disabled list with a left shoulder strain.

Selected in the 22nd round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, Garcia is considered the top pitching prospect in the Cardinals organization. In his first season with the Memphis Redbirds, Garcia is 4-4 with a 4.59 ERA in 12 starts. He fanned 57 and walked 25 in 68 2/3 innings pitched.

Garcia joined the Cards in Pittsburgh on Friday.

"Garcia is officially available today and he can be the innings guy if we need it," Cards manager Tony La Russa said. "You just try to win the games and use good judgment when you bring him in there. I'd be very surprised if he didn't pitch sometime this weekend."

When Garcia pitches, he will become the 10th Cardinal to make his Major League debut this season -- a staggering number for any organization, but especially for a team very much in playoff contention.

"I'm here to do whatever I have to do to help this team," Garcia said. "If they need me out of the bullpen, that's what I'll do. If they need me to start, that's what I'll do. I'm ready to do whatever they need."

However, La Russa indicated that he believes Garcia's future lies in a starting role.

"I don't think we're going to make him a left-handed reliever," La Russa said. "I think he's a starter, so if at some point we get Randy Flores back and Garcia benefits more from pitching every five days, we'll do it. But right now, we're keeping ourselves alive and in contention, and we've got to do everything we can to make it work for us."

George Von Benko is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.