Garcia believes he's ready to make next start

After 90-pitch outing with Double-A Springfield, lefty could return to Cardinals

Garcia believes he's ready to make next start

ST. LOUIS -- A day after throwing 90 pitches in a rehab start for Double-A Springfield, lefty Jaime Garcia returned to Busch Stadium, indicating that he feels ready to make his next start in the Majors. Now it's just a matter of whether the Cardinals agree.

Asked if he was ready to join the Cardinals' rotation, Garcia described himself "as close as I can be." The team has not yet committed to Garcia's next step, but if it does want to plug him into the rotation next week, he'd be sufficiently rested to take Tyler Lyons' place and start Thursday against the Mets in New York.

"My number one priority is to be up here with this team and compete and do whatever is in my control to help the team win games," Garcia said. "I'm ready to compete whenever that is."

Garcia's outing on Friday was his second since throwing a series of simulated games in extended spring training. He allowed two runs and six hits over six innings, struck out six and walked none.

"I felt really good physically," Garcia said. "My timing, my command are definitely getting better. It was definitely exciting."

In pushing his pitch count to 90, Garcia reached a benchmark he hadn't been able to this spring. Garcia was shut down from throwing a little more than two weeks before Opening Day, when his arm didn't recover from an 80-pitch effort.

Since rebuilding that arm strength through a deliberate throwing program, Garcia has had no additional setbacks.

"I could tell a big difference when I started throwing the simulated games," Garcia said. "Who knows what really happened, but the way I see it now, I'm not really thinking about Spring Training. All I'm thinking about is right now; I'm moving forward. I'm healthy. I'm ready to compete and do whatever is asked of me."

As of Saturday morning, the Cardinals and Garcia had not discussed the next step for the left-hander. He could throw a side session in front of the Major League staff as early as Sunday so they can get their eyes on him. He does have time remaining in his rehab assignment to return to the Minors for another start if the Cardinals prefer to get him additional work before throwing him into his first Major League game since last June.

"It was a good time after having a good outing to come back and kind of let us get as much information as we can, get our doctors' hands on him, possibly watch him and just take it from there," manager Mike Matheny said. "He had a smile on his face, excitement in his eye. He wants to pitch. It sounded like it was a good outing. Everything was there, so now we'll see."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB, like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.