"There are so many good players at the big league level. I knew this was my way to break in," Garcia said. "What guys want to see is a tough at-bat. I can do that. That's something that's within my control -- to give a tough at-bat."
He is one of just 12 rookies in franchise history to tally at least eight pinch-hits in a season. The franchise record is 11, reached four times, most recently by Matt Adams (2013). Garcia has a pinch-hit in each of his last three at-bats, and, back in June, delivered a game-tying, eighth-inning pinch-hit homer that led to a Cardinals win.
So why such immediate results in a role that often takes players seasons to figure out?
"I think first and foremost, you have to have some bat speed," manager Mike Matheny said. "He comes off the bench and hasn't seen game speed, so you have to have good hands to come off and be able to do that. … We use that term 'professional at-bat.' I think that's something that he does take a lot of pride in, how he prepares and all those have been things he's done well."
Garcia attributed the success to a few factors. Among them is the benefit of pinch-hitting ahead of leadoff hitter Matt Carpenter.
"They're not going to want to walk me," Garcia said. "I'm getting good pitches to hit."
He has also settled into an in-game routine, one in which he heads to the cage midgame to take some swings off a pitching machine so he can get used to seeing some velcoity. He's learning to adapt that routine on the road, where such machines are not always available.
Garcia said he also tries to approach pinch-hit opportunities without an all-or-nothing mindset -- even if that is what it is.
"I don't put so much pressure on myself thinking I'm only going to get this one at-bat," he explained. "I take it like another at-bat and when I get a good pitch to hit, don't miss it."
Though Pete Kozma has served as the team's backup shortstop all season, Garcia's ability to provide a spark off the bench could lend the Cardinals to keep him on a playoff roster where defensive ability isn't as critical as what can be offered at the plate. Though he is not a natural shortstop like Kozma, Garcia can play anywhere in the infield.
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.