Garcia earns role in starting rotation

Garcia earns role in starting rotation

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- A weeklong dance finally ended on Tuesday when the Cardinals confirmed that Jaime Garcia will in fact be their fifth starter to open the season.

One day after contender Kyle McClellan was returned to the bullpen, the Cards completed the last two steps in finalizing the move. They reassigned left-hander Rich Hill to Minor League camp and notified Garcia that he had won the job.

"He's made a heck of an impression," manager Tony La Russa said of Garcia. "That's definitely true. He's been impressive. He's been consistently good. And the way he goes about it is good."

Garcia entered camp as the third pitcher in a three-man race. The club preferred to send him to Triple-A Memphis in order for him to establish health and durability. However, he pitched so well as to force his way into a leading role. And a shortage of bullpen depth caused the Cardinals to return McClellan to his job of the past two years as a relief pitcher.

Hill, meanwhile, entered camp as, arguably, the front-runner for the job but was never especially sharp. He's still trying to regain the command and form that made him one of the National League's most promising young lefties as recently as 2007.

"What he should do is just go down there and pitch as part of the Memphis rotation, as good as he can, and let things fall into place," La Russa said. "He shouldn't think, 'I'm first [in line], I'm second, I'm third.' Just pitch, pitch, pitch. Don't look over your shoulder. Let things fall into place."

Matthew Leach is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.