During spring training a year ago, Rockies manager Bud Black wandered over to the minor league side of the club’s Salt River complex where he came upon right-hander Rico Garcia throwing a bullpen session.
Black didn’t know who Garcia was, but from what he saw that day he was intrigued enough to immediately find out his name. Since then, he’s kept an eye on his progress.
“I stopped because I liked the arm action, and the ball was coming out good,” Black said. “I asked the minor league coaches who he was and from that point on, I sort of followed him in the Cal League where he pitched well (with Class-A Advanced Lancaster).”
Fast forward to this season, and Garcia is tearing it up with Double-A Hartford. The former 30th-round draft pick leads the Eastern League with eight wins, is second with 85 strikeouts and third in WHIP at 0.91. The 25-year-old was named the league’s pitcher of the week Monday, and since being promoted to the Yard Goats last July he’s posted a 2.08 ERA in 23 starts.
While a promotion to Triple-A Albuquerque likely seems imminent for Garcia, he’s staying level-headed. This is a Honolulu native from a state better known for surfing than baseball, after all, as Garcia was overlooked and passed over many times. First out of high school, and then following a collegiate career as a four-year starter for Division-II Hawaii Pacific University.
“Growing up in Hawaii, I didn’t get that much exposure, and then the same with going to a Division-II college after getting overlooked by a lot of schools,” Garcia said. “So a lot of my career has been in the background, and in the underdog kind of role.
“Mentally, it’s prepared me to take things to the next level … I don’t get too big-headed and I guess you could say that I feel the momentum (of a dominant season), but I don’t read too much into it because I know things can change at any second.”
Black said Garcia is certainly “a guy who’s on the radar” of the big league club.
“We’re encouraged by where he is now in his career,” Black said. “He can spin a breaking ball, he’s got some life to the fastball, he’s got a changeup. And we’ve moved him on the rubber a little bit to help some of his direction, his line, and his consistency.”
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