J. Garcia recalls Cards 'memories, relationships'

Starter spent eight seasons with St. Louis before trade to Atlanta

J. Garcia recalls Cards 'memories, relationships'

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- After 12 seasons in the Cardinals' organization, Jaime Garcia said he has embraced the "fresh start" that followed his December trade to the Braves.

While the Cardinals were on the field preparing for Tuesday's game against Atlanta, Garcia was on the backfields and in the weight room ahead of his Braves debut on Wednesday. Garcia is part of a new-look Braves rotation, and he arrived at a new spring camp without the baggage he struggled to shed in St. Louis.

There, Garcia had become an enigma -- so talented, but so often injured.

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"I had ups and downs, but I had a lot of great memories and relationships," Garcia said. "I'm very thankful to the St. Louis Cardinals for the opportunity that they gave me. I was able to win a World Series there. … It was a little weird [in a new clubhouse] at first after so many years over there, but right now I'm with the Atlanta Braves, and I'm extremely excited to be a part of this thing."

A 22nd-round pick in 2005, Garcia broke into the Majors three years later before missing a full season recovering from injury. It was the start of a career that vacillated between periods of both promise and frustration. He was a third-place finisher in Rookie of the Year voting in '10, but from '13-14, he made just 16 big league appearances.

Just as the Cardinals seemed ready to move on, Garcia bounced back from thoracic outlet surgery to have a strong 2015 season. That prompted the Cardinals to exercise his option for '16. The club picked up another option on Garcia's contract this past fall.

The latter was a calculated decision, as the Cardinals anticipated that Garcia would draw interest in the trade market given the dearth of premium free-agent starters. They were right, and on the first day of December, the Cards flipped Garcia for three prospects -- John Gant, Chris Ellis and Luke Dykstra.

"I went home and just focused on getting myself ready for this season -- regardless of whether it was going to be with the St. Louis Cardinals or someone else," Garcia said. "When they did pick up the option, I was excited and really looked forward to being a part of the team. Obviously, the trade happened, and I had to adapt to that."

Garcia finished his Cardinals career 62-45 with a 3.57 ERA in 158 games (147 starts). His 723 strikeouts rank seventh-most among all left-handers in franchise history, and, between injuries, he has posted the 10th-lowest ERA (3.53 ERA) among all MLB lefties over the past seven seasons.

"I just hope I'm remembered as a guy who, regardless of everything that I went through, I gave it all," Garcia said. "I never liked to point fingers; I tried to man up with whatever happened. Unfortunately, things didn't go the way I wanted them to go sometimes, but I tried to always give my best to the city and the team."

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Read her blog, follow her on Twitter, like her Facebook page and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.