Garcia displaying Drive with zeros

Teenager allows two hits over six frames in career-best start

By Sam Dykstra / Special to | July 30, 2012 8:33 PM ET

In 2010, Jason Garcia entered professional baseball at age 17, a time when his peers were just happy that they no longer had to sneak into R-rated films.

Two years later, while many peers are about to enter their junior year of college or their third year in the work force, the 19-year-old right-hander is continuing his own education on the fields of the South Atlantic League.

Garcia scattered two hits and three walks over six scoreless innings Monday for Class A Greenville, but it took Keury De La Cruz's walk-off homer in the 11th inning to give the Drive a 4-3 win over Charleston.

It was his first scoreless start of the season and the longest such outing of his short three-year career, besting five shutout frames for Class A Short-Season Lowell on July 27, 2011.

The Florida native's two hits allowed just two singles, and only two baserunners reached scoring position during his outing.

"Today, it was all my fastball," Garcia said. "I did a pretty good job of spotting it around the plate. I've faced these guys [six] times in the last month-and-a-half, so I've learned to get those guys out, I think. I really didn't have to go to my off-speed very much, except in certain counts to keep them honest."

The 2010 17th-round pick's entire arsenal has provided the biggest educational experience in his first full season of pro ball. After learning to hone the four-seam fastball, the pitch sits in the low-90s. The two-seamer -- his primary selection in high school that was initially taken away from him by the Red Sox -- has emerged again as a pitch that can be buried inside against righties to induce groundballs by the bunches. But the biggest learning curve has come with the slider, Garcia's main off-speed offering to date.

"I'm still learning to throw the slider," he said. "The changeup's coming around too, but I was really trying to learn how to throw the slider and when to use it. Earlier in the year, I'd be using it maybe in the wrong counts, and guys would hit it pretty well. But I feel like now I'm getting it down and building it more and more as I go along."

Garcia has struggled in his introduction to Class A. He entered Monday's start with a 5-5 record and a 6.42 ERA -- the latter stat being the highest among eligible Sally League hurlers. That was difficult to deal with initially for the 19-year-old, who posted marks of 3-3 and 3.88 last season with Lowell.

"Dealing with failure has been the biggest thing for me this year," Garcia said. "It was the first time I had ever really had faced that much trouble when it comes to baseball and pitching. I had a string of really bad starts, but I knew I had to keep working at it and I kept telling myself, 'Tomorrow's a new day.' I was just really learning not to carry bad starts over with me."

With his latest performance, the pitcher dropped his ERA to 6.02 and brought himself out of the cellar.

Garcia's numbers haven't been flashy, but he knows he still has more than enough time -- including the remainder of this season -- to discover his potential as a pro pitcher.

"Right now, I'm just trying to take in as much as possible," he said. "My goals were to mostly have a solid year after the good one I had in Lowell last year. I just wanted to follow up with that, and maybe I can build something up here and take that into the offseason and into Spring Training. "I'm still glad I went through with [signing in 2010]. All I can hope for now is to finish up strong."

De La Cruz's blast in the 11th was his team-leading 16th of the year. He also leads the Drive in batting average (.312), slugging (.540) and RBIs (66).

"We were all confident in him when he came up leading off the 11th," Garcia said.

Sam Dykstra is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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