"I think at this point, it's hard to say the word relief, because I'm very frustrated and disappointed at myself," Garcia said on Tuesday, his 28th birthday. "This continues to happen when my goal, and the thing I want the most, is to be out there helping this team win. They would like to have me out there. I would like to be out there more than they want to have me out there. I've worked so hard the last couple years to be on that mound."
Yet he hardly has been. In the three seasons since 2011, when he made 32 starts, Garcia has totaled 36 appearances. The estimated recovery time from this surgery -- an invasive procedure that involves removing the top rib on Garcia's left side -- is three to four months, though general manager John Mozeliak characterized that time frame as conservative.
Garcia sought opinions from three surgeons, including two who specialize in thoracic outlet syndrome, before choosing surgery over other rehab options. Garcia said that after discussions with physicians, as well as talks he had with other players who have had this injury, he came to the conclusion that he would only be delaying the inevitable need for surgery by going a different route now.
His hope is that by having the surgery this week, he can recover before the start of the 2015 season.
"I'm already thinking in my mind that I'm going to be ready to go next year," he said. "I'm going to do everything in my control to come back as soon as possible and as safe as possible."
"When you look at, historically, when people have this surgery, they do tend to be able to come back from this," Mozeliak said. "But I think in fairness, we'll probably have a much better gauge for that in about two months."
Garcia is under contract with the Cardinals for one more season, during which he'll make $9.25 million. Given his extensive injury history, it seems unlikely that the Cardinals would pick up the two option years on the back end of the contract, which Garcia signed during that 2011 campaign.
Garcia speculated that the recurring shoulder problems he has dealt with since that season could be at least loosely connected to thoracic outlet syndrome. He described having symptoms at various times over the past two seasons, though he did not alert team officials until recently because he thought they were related to his other shoulder injuries.
Those symptoms -- numbness in his pitching hand, tingling in his neck, shooting pain down his arm -- became increasingly bothersome this season. Garcia said that his only pain-free start came on June 8, when he threw seven shutout innings against the Blue Jays.
"I think everybody that's standing in front of me now knows when he's on, he's very good -- one of the more unhittable pitchers we have," Mozeliak said. "It's too bad, because when you look at that game in Toronto, you certainly were encouraged that he was going to be someone that could be contributing for a while. It just didn't work out that way."