JUPITER, Fl. (KMOV.com) -- Greg Garcia made history Monday in West Palm Beach. In the eighth inning, the St. Louis utility man shot a ball down the left field line that banana-ed away from the diving left fielder and went all the way to the wall. Garcia bolted around the stations, easily beating the throw home for the first inside-the-park home run in the new stadium’s history.
What happened next, by a different Garcia, may have been even more eye-popping.
New Cardinal Adolis Garcia, who recently obtained his work visa after his defection from Cuba, followed the elder Garcia in the lineup. The 24-year-old poked a ball out into right center, and two Astros outfielders weren’t able to corral it before it reached the warning track.
“It’s funny, before he hit that, I said, ‘I’d really like to watch this kid run,’” manager Mike Matheny said. “Next pitch, we got to see it. I mean, once he hit first base, it was like he found another gear. That guy can fly.”
The Cardinals knew when they signed Garcia he had five-tool potential. He was MVP of Cuba’s top league in 2016, had a tremendous arm and the ability to hit for contact as well as power. But nothing translates to the MLB easier than speed, and Garcia had yet to find an opportunity to show it off.
When his Monday’s hit (his first as a Cardinal) left the infield, he clapped. When he saw it roll deep into the outfield, he took the stage.
“We watched him home to first the other day and that was pretty impressive,” Matheny said. “But I think when we watched Adolis out of the box today, that was a fast player. He turned a typical double almost into an inside the park home run.”
Garcia’s speed is easy, a product of perfectly measured strides that happen so quickly and propel him so far with each step your eye falls behind. He hit second base before the fielders reached the ball. He rounded third as the throw came in to the relay man. For a moment it looked like he might try it, that the Astros may be so caught off guard by his speed he could make it back-to-back inside the park home runs.
But he held up, reversing his incredible velocity as easily as he throttled it up and returning to the bag.
Three days later, he throttled up again. Late in Thursday's game against the Marlins at Roger Dean Stadium Garcia stepped in and grounded a ball to the first baseman. It was a routine tapper, one whose conclusion is so foregone many MLB vets don't even run it out. But as Garcia bounded down the basepath, the stadium began to buzz. As he neared the bag, the noise crescendoed in anticipation. Some of it was coming from the dugout.
"I heard he was fast, and they were telling us what our scouts had seen. But when you watch him first hand, there’s some special talent there," Matheny said.
Garcia beat the play. He took a groundout and ran it into a single. He stole first base.
"That speed is going to cause havoc. There’s not that many guys who put that kind of pressure on first base like he did. That was just a very routine play that he turned into a panic because of how fast he was."
Two times in a week, the Cuban outfielder turned a ho-hum play into a thrilling handful of seconds. Maybe 3,500 people saw either one happen. Taken in the larger context of spring, they mean very little. But as Garcia regains his rhythm after stepping away from the baseball to escape to America, they will certainly linger in the minds of the Cardinals, who are always in need of speed on a roster searching for athleticism.
“He hasn’t played in awhile. He has to go play. He’s going to have to get at bats, he’s going to have to get repetitions. He’s still a young player. But there’s always room,” Matheny said. “Speed never takes a day off.”