Updated: Garcia 5th AAA Pitcher to Join Rockies Rotation, OF Hilliard Also Added
Rico Garcia came out of high school and had only one college offer to play baseball -- Hawaii Pacific University.
Garcia, a native of Honolulu, didn't hesitate on saying yes.
And now look at him.
Seven years later, Garcia is ready to make his Major League Debut, on Tuesday night for the Rockies against the defending world champion Boston Red Sox in an Inter League game at Coors Field.
In addition to Garcia, the Rockies recalled outfielder Sam Hilliard from Triple-A Albuquerque. Hilliard, who hit .262 with the Isotopes with 35 home runs and 101 RBI, and also was 22-for-27 in stolen bases. A pitcher in junior college, Hilliard was converted to an outfielder as a junior at Wichita State, and was signed by the Rockies as a 15th-round draft pick in 2015.
Hilliard fills the outfielder void created by Raimel Tapia being placed on the Injured List Monday.
The Rockies optioned left-handed pitcher Phillip Diehl and right-hander Joe Harvey to Triple-A and have transferred right-hander Chad Bettis to the 60-day injured list to create roster room for Hilliard and Garcia, who in addition to being placed on the Rockies 25-man active roster had to be placed on the 40-man roster.
The Rockies 30th round draft choice in 2016, Garcia got off to a slow start, pitching at short-season A Boise in his 2016 debut, and returning to Boise to open the 2017 season.
Since then, however, he has moved quickly, splitting that 2017 season between Boise and Class A Asheville. In 2018, he opened at Advanced A Lancaster and finished at Double-A Hartford. This year, he returned to Hartford initially, made the mid-season move to Triple-A Albuquerque, and now will join the Rockies, stepping into the rotation in place of German Marquez, who was placed on the Injured List on Monday, retroactive to Friday.
Garcia was a mid-season All-Star this year with Hartford, where he was 8-2 with a 1.85 ERA, striking out 87 and walking 23 in 68 innings, before being promoted to Albuqueruque. He struggled initially with the Isotopes, but is 2-0 in his last three starts -- an Aug. 10 start against Round Rock in which he allowed two runs on four hits and a wlalk in six innings, and then working five shutout innings at Sacramento, allowing four hits and three walks, at Sacramento last Wednesday.
He was scratched from his scheduled start for the Isotopes on Monday, putting him in place to make his big-league debut at Coors Field Tuesday night. Nelson Gonzalez during the assignment for Albuquerque instead.
His start will come the day after Tim Melville, making his second start since being called up from Albuquerque, worked five shutout innings against the Braves in what became a 3-1, walk-off win for the Rockies thanks to Ryan McMahon's ninth-inning home run. That came after the 29-year-old Melville debuted for the Rockies by allowing two hits and a run in seven innings to earn a victory at Arizona.
And he will become the fourth pitcher promoted from Albuquerque currently in the injury-stripped Rockies rotation, joining Melville, Chi Chi Gonzalez and Peter Lambert. Jeff Hoffman also has made nine starts in four different stints with the Rockies, but is not expected to return for a fifth.
All five members of the Rockies season-opening rotation are currently on the Injured List -- Jon Gray, German Marquez, Tyler Anderson, Kyle Freeland and Chad Bettis. Antonio Senzatela, who opened the season on the Injured List and joined the Rockies rotation as soon as he was deemed healthy, also had a mid-season stint at Albuquerque after he struggled at the big-league level and returned last week.
Graica was ranked the 22nd best prospect in the Rockies system by Baseball America last off-season.
"Garcia has responded to coaching and a regular throwing program," reads the Baseball America scouting report. "He has worked on his delivery to provide better balance, which allows him to use his legs better. Garcia's fastball improved to an average of 92 mph with a peak of 96 on a regular basis. The uptick on his fastball combined with a quality changeup and solid curveball has elevated Garcia's prospect status. His curveball has good downward break that disrupts hitters' timing."