Garcia ready for first Major League start

Garcia set for first Major League start

ST. LOUIS -- All year long, the Cardinals have searched for someone to fill the fifth spot in the rotation.

On Sunday, rookie Jaime Garcia will be the latest in a long line of candidates to take the job.

Called up on July 11 to replace Mark Mulder on the 25-man roster, Garcia became the Cardinals' 10th rookie to make his Major League debut. In his one relief appearance, Garcia threw two innings, gave up one hit and struck out two.

Now, he gets the call to the mound as a starter for the first time in his big league career.

"It's just really exciting for me," Garcia said. "I've been waiting for this moment my whole life. It's the dream come true for me."

Known as one of the top pitching prospects in the Cardinals' farm system, Garcia began the 2008 campaign at Double-A Springfield. After six starts and a sparkling 2.06 ERA there, the club promoted him to Triple-A Memphis.

After reaching Memphis, however, Garcia did not have the same success he had in Double-A. The ERA jumped to 4.59 and his WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) was 1.41.

Still, the organization feels strongly about Garcia's abilities. And needing someone to fill Mulder's spot in the rotation, he seemed like the logical choice.

"He really wasn't throwing that well when he came up, but he's had good progress through the organization, and it's a good chance for him to get his feet wet," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "Based on when I saw him pitch, I think he's going to go out there and let it go."

So far this year, the Cardinals have attempted to cement the fifth spot in the rotation, but have yet been able to find the right man. Once Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter return from their injuries -- a right finger sprain and right elbow surgery, respectively -- that hole will be filled.

With their two top pitchers down, the Cardinals have had spot starts from Brad Thompson, Mitchell Boggs and Mike Parisi. All but Parisi pitched well, because they kept it simple and did not try to do too much.

It's a lesson Garcia took to heart.

"That's what got me here -- the stuff that I was doing over there," Garcia said. "I'm just going to try to go out there and do my thing. I'm not going to do too much or change the stuff [or] try to do something different."

Pitching matchup
STL: LHP Jaime Garcia (0-0, 0.00 ERA)
In his first Major League appearance, Garcia tossed two scoreless frames in relief to close out a 6-0 Cardinals victory over Pittsburgh on July 11. Garcia was 4-4 at Triple-A Memphis.

SD: RHP Cha Seung Baek (2-5, 5.25 ERA)
Baek enters the second half with a fresh arm. He made his previous start on July 9 against Florida, allowing three runs on six hits over five innings. Opponents are hitting .282 against him since he was traded to the Padres in June from Seattle. Baek might not be long for the starting rotation, though, if the Padres decide to hang on to veterans Greg Maddux and Randy Wolf through the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline.

Chris Carpenter begins his rehabilitation process on Sunday when he makes a start for Double-A Springfield. Carpenter's pitch count should be around 75 pitches. ... Ozzie Smith, one of the most beloved players in the history of the Cardinals' organization, will be honored Sunday with his election to the All-Time Rawlings Gold Glove team. "The Wizard" will be presented a special Gold Glove in recognition of his achievements. ... Sunday's finale against the Padres marks the 100th game of the season for the Cardinals.

 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• KSDK 5

On radio
• KTRS 550

Up next
• Monday: Cardinals (Joel Pineiro, 3-4, 4.52) vs. Brewers (TBD), 6:05 p.m. CT
• Tuesday: Cardinals (Kyle Lohse, 12-2, 3.35) vs. Brewers (Jeff Suppan, 5-6, 4.71), 7:15 p.m. CT
• Wednesday: Cardinals (Braden Looper, 9-7, 4.60) vs. Brewers (TBD), 7:15 p.m. CT

Lee Hurwitz is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.