Search

3 Seattle Mariners Can Freddy Garcia keep his focus and become the ace this staff needs?

April 05, 2004
April 05, 2004

Table of Contents
April 5, 2004

Baseball Preview 2004

3 Seattle Mariners Can Freddy Garcia keep his focus and become the ace this staff needs?

Pitching with a pair of ruptured eardrums isn't recommended, but
the condition had its benefits for Mariners righthander Freddy
Garcia last season. "It made me a little deaf," he says, which
was a blessing because there was a great deal that Garcia was
better off not hearing. His ear trouble helped block out the
occasional boos at Safeco Field, the criticism of talk-radio
callers and hosts, and the rumors that Seattle was on the verge
of trading him.

This is an article from the April 5, 2004 issue

All of that unpleasantness was the result of the maddening
inconsistency that has marked Garcia's career. Last season, for
example, he was 5-0 with a 2.05 ERA in June, went 0-6 with a
10.03 in July and the beginning of August, then ended the season
allowing only two runs in his last 27 innings. The final numbers
were 12-14 and 4.51, the worst of his career and particularly
disappointing for a 27-year-old pitcher with the kind of
explosive fastball and biting slider that could make him a No. 1
starter.

Seattle has been waiting for Garcia to develop into an ace ever
since his debut in 1999. But after a promising first three years,
over which time he went 44-19 and earned two All-Star
invitations, he has regressed. For the past two seasons he has
followed every sizzling streak with a cold stretch, which is why
the Mariners are openly lowering their expectations this year.
Manager Bob Melvin has Garcia, the Opening Day starter the last
three seasons, scheduled as the third man in the rotation, behind
soft-tossing control artist Jamie Moyer, 41, and 25-year-old
power pitcher Joel Pineiro, who has only two full season in the
majors. "We're not trying to saddle up Freddy and have him carry
us into the postseason," says pitching coach Bryan Price. "We
just need him to be a significant, reliable contributor to the
starting rotation."

But the Mariners are a pitching-and-defense kind of club, and it
would help immeasurably if a power pitcher like Garcia could
finally become a reliable stopper. Melvin and Price are no doubt
hoping that the reduced pressure, the one-year contract Garcia
signed in the off-season (for $6.875 million, the same salary as
last season's), as well as January surgery to repair his
eardrums, will help him produce a breakout year.

Garcia's ear problems began in 2002, when he ruptured one eardrum
by sneezing as the Mariners' plane was landing on a road trip to
Texas. The other eardrum burst on the return flight. Garcia
finished out the year and elected not to have off-season surgery.
During his up-and-down performance last season, however, Garcia
sometimes wore earplugs when he pitched to help with his
equilibrium. "He'll say it didn't affect him," Melvin says, "but
I know there were times he was struggling with his ears. It only
takes a small thing to make the difference between winning and
losing at this level, and I don't think there's any question that
some of Freddy's problems were physical."

Sometimes his problems have involved what goes on between those
ears. Garcia has a reputation for getting upset over an umpire's
call or a teammate's error and losing his concentration, a bad
habit he is trying to break. He and the rest of the pitching
staff shouldn't have to worry about too many miscues in the
outfield, at least, with swift, sure-handed players like Ichiro
Suzuki, Randy Winn and free-agent acquisition Raul Ibanez, also a
budding slugger who is likely to replace the aging but still
dangerous DH Edgar Martinez in the cleanup spot. The Mariners
might have to find another big bat somewhere to win the division,
but Melvin has enough to work with to keep them in the race all
season, particularly with a comeback year from Garcia, who may
continue using earplugs when he pitches, "just because I feel
like it," he says.

Should Garcia struggle again, the plugs will at least protect
against any complaining fans who recall that Garcia had fallen so
far in the Mariners' estimation that they nearly allowed him to
become a free agent at the end of last season. "I'm just happy
that I'm back," he says. "I know there were a lot of rumors that
I wouldn't be here this year. Being a free agent at the end of
the year is motivation, in a way, but mostly I want to show the
Mariners that they made the right decision to keep me
here." --P.T.

COLOR PHOTO: ELAINE THOMPSON/AP FREDDY'S HEAD After surgery to repair his eardrums, Garcia hopes he won't hear the criticism and rumors that have rattled him.COLOR PHOTO: HARRY HOW/GETTY IMAGES AURILIA

IN FACT
Ryan Franklin gave up 34 home runs in 212 innings last year, but
he allowed only 59 other runners to score.

ENEMY LINES
an opposing team's scout sizes up the Mariners

"Rightfielder Ichiro Suzuki is outstanding defensively, and he's
the best leadoff hitter in baseball. I've seen teams try to pitch
him up and away, hoping he'll fly out. Randy Winn is patient at
the plate, so he'll allow Ichiro to steal a few more bases. The
Mariners got Winn to play centerfield, and I'm not sure that's
his position.... They would like to have another big bat because
they're afraid Edgar Martinez will break down at some point....
I'd worry a little about Rich Aurilia because he doesn't have
much range at short, and he's been injured quite a bit.... They
were hoping Ben Davis would beat out Dan Wilson as the starting
catcher, but Davis has been horrible. They still have high
expectations for him.... The rotation is great. Jamie Moyer
doesn't throw hard enough to puff your lip, but he makes his
pitches. Joel Pineiro has great breaking stuff because he throws
from a high angle. It's almost boring to watch Gil Meche, he hits
94 to 95 so easily.... Getting Eddie Guardado to close will be
good for them. He throws anything at any time from any angle.

THE LINEUP
projected roster with 2003 statistics

BATTING ORDER

RF Suzuki
CF Winn
2B Boone
LF Ibanez
DH Martinez
3B Spiezio
1B Olerud
SS Aurilia
C Wilson

RANDY WINN

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
S-R 125 .295 11 75 23

RAUL IBANEZ [New acquisition]

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
L-R 75 .294 18 90 8

ICHIRO SUZUKI

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
L-R 25 .312 13 62 34

RICH AURILIA [New acquisition]

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
R 179 .277 13 58 2

BRET BOONE

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
R 19 .294 35 117 16

SCOTT SPIEZIO [New acquisition]

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
S-R 139 .265 16 83 6

JOHN OLERUD

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
L 153 .269 10 83 0

DAN WILSON

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
R 290 .241 4 43 0

BENCH

BEN DAVIS

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
S-R 302 .236 6 42 0

RAMON SANTIAGO [New acquisition]

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
S-R 300 .225 2 29 10

DESIGNATED HITTER

EDGAR MARTINEZ

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
R 85 .294 24 98 0

ROTATION

PITCHER PVR W L IPS WHIP ERA

LH Jamie Moyer 27 21 7 6.5 1.23 3.27
RH Joel Pineiro 36 16 11 6.6 1.27 3.78
RH Freddy Garcia 47 12 14 6.1 1.33 4.51
RH Ryan Franklin 94 11 13 6.6 1.23 3.57
RH Gil Meche 69 15 13 5.8 1.34 4.59

BULLPEN

PITCHER PVR W L S WHIP ERA

LH Eddie Guardado 21 3 5 41 0.98 2.89
[New acquisition]
RH Shigetoshi Hasegawa 111 2 4 16 1.10 1.48
RH Rafael Soriano 118 3 0 1 0.79 1.53

(R) Rookie
B-T: Bats-throws
IPS: Innings pitched per start
WHIP: Walks plus hits per inning pitched
PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 142)

2003 RECORD
93-69
second in AL West

MANAGER
Bob Melvin
second season with Seattle