NEW YORK — If this is how Freddy Garcia pitches when he goes nearly three weeks between starts, perhaps the Yankees might want to consider reconfiguring their upcoming pitching rotation.
Making his first start of the regular season on Saturday afternoon – his first for the Yankees in Yankee Stadium – in winter-like conditions, Garcia gave the much-maligned Yankees staff a feel-good boost by throwing six scoreless innings in a 5-2 victory over the Rangers at Yankee Stadium.
Mark Teixeira hit a two-run homer in the first inning and a sacrifice fly in the third to open an early 3-0 lead, and the wily Garcia made it stand up. Starting a game for the first time since his spring training finale March 29, Garcia allowed only two singles and a walk.
Surely the rain, wind and mid-40s weather helped the pitchers more than the hitters on this day, but that shouldn’t take away from Garcia’s impressive display of pitching. Garcia, a Seattle Mariners ace from 1999-2004, threw pitches that ranged in speed by 20 mph, with his fastball hitting 87 mph and his curve as slow as 67 mph.
On the heels of Phil Hughes’ struggles to survive with only a 90-mph fastball, Garcia’s performance served as a timely reminder that a pitcher often can do a lot more with a lot less.
“You don’t have to throw 95,” manager Joe Girardi said. “You have to locate and change speeds and move the ball around and not give up free passes. That’s the lesson to be learned. Have command of your pitches and use the whole strike zone.”
But Garcia showed no rust in keeping one of the league’s most talented lineups off-balance for six innings.
“They’re real aggressive, so I tried to mix my speeds all the time,” he said.