JUPITER, FL. (KMOV.com) -- Jaime Garcia, returning to Roger Dean Stadium after his start on the back fields last week, turned in his best start of spring with five strong innings against the Marlins Sunday.
He struck out four and gave up two hits, one of which was a soft blooper over first base. He walked Miami’s biggest bat, Giancarlo Stanton, twice and surrendered two runs.
“They had their whole lineup and were taking some good swings, but I felt pretty good as well. It was definitely good,” he said.
Garcia looked in control the whole way, despite dealing with a blister on the middle finger of his throwing hand. He was checked on in the dugout in the fourth inning, but returned for three more outs before finishing his day at 72 pitches.
He underwent treatment on his finger after the game and had some blood under his nail, but was unconcerned when asked about the situation.
“I had a little finger deal, a blister there that I’ve had in the past,” he said. “Nothing that’s going to be an issue.”
Garcia, like Lance Lynn, has dealt with blisters on his throwing hand a few times before, especially around his fingernail. It’s not uncommon for pitchers, especially those with heavy pitch movement, to develop them on their fingertips, especially in spring.
The issue didn’t appear to hurt the lefty’s effectiveness, as he coaxed 11 groundouts and gave up only one hard hit ball all day.
Sunday’s contest marks the final opportunity for Garcia to throw in a spring training game, as the team’s Grapefruit League schedule ends Thursday in Tampa. The Cardinals then head north to play the Pirates on Sunday, April 3.
Garcia said there’s the possibility he would stay behind in Jupiter when the team heads to Pittsburgh in order to stretch himself out and tune up for his first start, which could be the end of the season’s first week.
“That’s definitely a lot better than going a long time without pitching. I’ll do whatever they want me to do, but if that’s the decision, I’ll like it a lot,” he said.
The Cardinals are off the Monday after the season opener and get another off day on that Thursday. Rather than watching idly or throwing bullpen sessions, Garcia could get simulated game work at the team’s spring training complex and join the club after another full start.
He will join a rotation looking to replicate a historically great season. The Cardinal starters had an ERA of 2.99 and held opponents to a .248 average, numbers that put them among the best in the past 40 years. Even with such a lofty standard, Garcia believes the rotation can improve on those marks.
"I think we can be even better. We added a guy that's fun to watch," he said of newcomer Mike Leake. "He knows what he's doing out there."
Leake, like Garcia, pitches heavily to contact. When the defense falters, as it did Saturday, it makes for an uphill battle for ground ball pitchers. However the lefty says there's trust in the fielders this season, which lends confidence to his prediction of surpassing last year.
"Very confident. Obviously, we lost our shortstop Jhonny, but we get a guy in Tejada that's very good defensively," he said. "We're very confident in everybody else, which is a lot of the reason why we had that success we had last year. What the guys were able to do behind us."
The Cardinals committed 96 errors in 2015, ninth most in baseball. Their 28 so far in spring are tied for the third most in the National League. If they can reduce those numbers, the staff could have a shot at retaining their spot atop league standings. Last year St. Louis pitchers drew the third most ground balls in the MLB and were tied for the lowest line drive percentage. Only one staff, the Pirates, allowed fewer home runs.