Robert Garcia's first five outings in the Pioneer League were tough ones. In order to break out, the southpaw didn't need to change his mechanics or pitch selection but the ability to believe in himself.
The Royals prospect put together his best outing as a professional with five hitless innings as Rookie-level Idaho Falls knocked off Billings, 6-2, on Monday night. He struck out six and walked two.
"It was obviously a great bounceback start for him," Idaho Falls manager Justin Gemoll said of Garcia, who came into the game with a 12.27 ERA. "I think more than anything with him, working hard with our pitching coach Jeff Suppan -- who is, without a doubt, one of the best when it comes to the mental preparation for pitchers -- they've just been working a lot on him trusting his stuff and attacking the hitters.
"That's what he did. He was aggressive. He went right after their guys and he trusted his stuff. He got great results tonight."
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A 15th-round selection from UC Davis in June, Garcia debuted in the Rookie-level Arizona League by going 1-0 with a 5.40 ERA in two outings before heading to the Pioneer League on July 6. He allowed at least three runs in each of his first four outings with the Chukars before things fell apart in his fifth.
Facing Orem on July 30, the 21-year-old was tagged for 13 runs on 14 hits over 4 1/3 innings in a 17-7 loss. Instead of shirking from the unsightly line, Garcia (1-2) reworked his approach against Billings.
"He was just very confident from the get-go," Gemoll said. "When we work with these kids and we talk to these kids about the process -- at this level, a lot of it is process-oriented, not so much results-oriented. They're trying to get them used to pro ball and used to the grind and all that kind of stuff. I think when they do have games when everything clicks and they see the results, they buy in right away."
Garcia retired nine of the first 10 batters Monday, issuing only a two-out walk to Hendrik Clementina in the second inning. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound hurler walked Stuart Fairchild with one out in the fourth, but responded by retiring five in a row. Garcia struck out at least one batter in each inning and threw 46 of 77 pitches for strikes.
"He was just getting ahead of guys," Gemoll said. "Instead of falling behind and getting in hitters' counts where it's 1-0, 2-0, he was attacking with the first pitch. That's obviously a big advantage for the pitcher if they're ahead in the count the majority of the time like he was tonight."
The outing didn't just mark Garcia's first professional win. It gave the Manteca, California native his first benchmark performance as a Minor Leaguer and a building block for the season's final month.
"I think it just builds trust in your stuff," Gemoll said. "Any time you can go out there and you can execute pitches, I think that kind of stuff just feeds the momentum. He just keeps attacking and keeps getting ground balls and fly balls and that sort of thing. ... He was just going right after their guys. That was what we wanted to see from him."
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After Garcia exited, reliever Garrettson Harris kept the no-hitter alive until Leandro Santana singled with one out in the seventh.
Josh Mitchell gave up an unearned run on four hits over the final two innings en route to his third save.