Garcia rolls into regular season with confidence

Garcia rolls into regular season with confidence

JUPITER, Fla. -- Manager Mike Matheny seemed unconcerned that left-hander Jaime Garcia faced an entirely Minor League lineup in his start Wednesday against the Nationals. That's because it didn't keep Garcia from getting near the 90-pitch mark, and, in fact, it stood to serve as another confidence booster for Garcia, who has had a sensational spring.

Garcia pitched eight innings -- two more than any other Cardinals starter had in a Grapefruit League game - and allowed one run on six hits, while throwing 87 pitches. He struck out eight and didn't allow a walk. In his 29 spring innings, Garcia notched 24 strikeouts and walked just five.

"He just came out with a real clear idea of what he was trying to accomplish," Matheny said. "And moreso than anything else [it] was his mindset. I think it's been a very good spring for him right from the start. Once he got going right in his mind, the stuff just follows along. And then that confidence comes from having some success."

Garcia's arrival in camp was greeted with immediate questions about his left shoulder, which twice forced him to shut down last season. Though the Cardinals received positive reports from Garcia about his offseason throwing program, everyone wanted to see for themselves how he looked.

If it was a test, Garcia unquestionably passed. He had arguably the best spring of any of the pitchers set to make the Cardinals' Opening Day roster.

"The biggest thing was being able to go out there every fifth day, being able to trust yourself and get in a position where you are ready to go for the season," Garcia said. "The first thing is health. Obviously, that's what everybody wants. I'm going to be there for my teammates, and I'm going to take one day at a time."

The only thing trumping the need to prove his health to everyone else was the necessity that Garcia proved it to himself. The left shoulder impingement that slowed him in 2012 is still there, but Garcia has altered the strength work he does in between starts to better allow him to pitch through it. Now, he knows he can.

"He just has never seen what he throws from the plate," Matheny said. "I think if he could see it and realize how hard it is to do anything with, he'd trust it a lot more often and not try to be quite so fine. I've seen him [have] that [trust] this spring."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.