JUPITER, Fla. -- Initially scheduled to face the Red Sox on Monday in his fourth Grapefruit League start, lefty Jaime Garcia will instead take to the backfields of the Cardinals' spring complex to get his work in a more controlled setting.
Garcia's expected to throw around 75-80 pitches in an intrasquad game between organizational affiliates. The guidelines for these scrimmages are loose, meaning that Garcia can construct what situations he'd like to pitch in. One of his objectives, for instance, is to get work out of the stretch with runners on base. He can choose, then, to start innings with a runner in scoring position.
"I'm confident on where I'm at at this point in spring, so it's more working on things in particular," Garcia said. "It just gives you the flexibility to do what you need to do with 80 pitches. You get the same out of it, the same intensity. Any time I take the mound -- whether it's live BP, Spring Training game, regular season game -- I take the same approach and same intensity. The difference is you can control what you're doing out there."
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Garcia's decision to pitch on the backfields allows Marco Gonzales to draw his second Grapefruit League start. It's an ideal scenario for the Cardinals, who were otherwise struggling to find multiple-inning opportunities for the lefty.
It's not unusual for players to request appearances outside of Grapefruit League play in order to address particular needs. John Lackey made his first spring start last year on the backfields, while lefty specialist Randy Choate would often ask for the work so he could face a line of left-handed batters. Hitters who need extra at-bats can take one every inning in these games.
"It just enables him to go work," manager Mike Matheny said. "Sometimes guys are limited out here to pitches in an outing, pitches in an inning. You're confined to time and space. It's kind of a perfect storm for us to get work."
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While Garcia has been mostly pleased by his progression in spring, he has had some trouble working out of the stretch. Aside from a solo homer he allowed in his first outing, the other six spring runs Garcia has given up came on hits with a runner on base.
After Monday's outing, Garcia is expected to make one more Grapefruit League start before the team breaks camp.
"I'm going to go out there tomorrow and treat it just like a game out here," said Garcia, who is lined up to open the season as the team's No. 4 starter. "I'm going to take the same exact approach going out there. I'm working on what I need to work on. I'll be ready for my next start and will be ready for when the season starts."
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.