Atlanta’s Freddy Garcia to get ball for ‘Big Game’ against Dodgers

Veteran right-hander Freddy Garcia will get the start in Game 4 against the Dodgers on Monday night.
(Erik S. Lesser / EPA)

Freddy Garcia was given the nickname “Big Game” when he was with the World Series-winning Chicago White Sox.

Well, he will have one of those Monday, this time for the Atlanta Braves.

The veteran right-hander, 37, spent most of this season in the minor leagues, but he will be the starter in Game 4 of the National League Division Series with the Braves trailing the Dodgers two games to one and on the brink of elimination in their best-of-five-games series.


Garcia described the Dodgers as a “powerful team” with a “powerful lineup” during a media session Sunday afternoon and nothing that happened in Game 3 will have changed his mind. The Dodgers crushed Braves’ pitchers for 14 hits, including a double and a triple by Hanley Ramirez and home runs by Carl Crawford and Juan Uribe in a 13-6 win.

“I just have to go out there and pitch the way I’ve been pitching,” Garcia said, “and try to do my best.”

He might need something better than that.

Garcia is a two-time All-Star with 156 career victories, but his best years are behind him.

Far behind him.

He was released by the San Diego Padres during spring training and picked up by the Baltimore Orioles, who signed him to a minor-league contract; he was with their triple-A Norfolk team most of this season.

Garcia had an 8-3 record there, but when the Orioles called him up in May, he stuck with them for less than two months. His record was 3-5, his earned-run average 5.77, and he was designated for assignment.

The Braves saved him, sending cash to the Orioles for his rights. He made one start at triple-A Gwinnett, giving up eight earned runs in 32/3 innings, but he was promoted anyway late in August.

He has appeared in six games for the Braves and had a 1-2 record and 1.65 ERA. Monday will be his fourth start, unless Braves Manager Fredi Gonzalez has a dramatic change of heart.

Gonzalez was asked whether he would consider bringing back Game 1 starter Kris Medlen if the Braves faced elimination.

He was adamant he would not.

“I don’t think it would be a good decision to bring them back short on a day, our guys,” Gonzalez said.

Garcia used to be a power pitcher back when he led the American League in ERA with the Seattle Mariners in 2001. He also won a World Series with the White Sox, pitching seven scoreless innings in the fourth and final game of a sweep over the Houston Astros in 2005.

But a shoulder injury that required surgery sapped several miles an hour off his best fastball. He has variety, though, with a split finger pitch at the top of his repertoire.

“He knows how to maneuver himself through a major league lineup,” Gonzalez said.

There’s also this: as bad as it looks for the Braves right now, it looked just as bad for Garcia when he was released by the Padres and then given up on by the Orioles.

He admitted he thought about quitting, but he wasn’t ready.

“You know, I always am positive,” Garcia said. “This year, being up and down, I always think I will be back to where I am right now.”

His chance for redemption came from the Braves.

They would like him to return the favor.