JUPITER, Fla. -- Luis García's Major League experience has changed since last Spring Training, but his goals have not.
After being fast tracked into the lineup in place of an injured Starlin Castro as a 20-year-old rookie, García arrived at Nationals camp with 40 big league games under his belt. He tallied 285 1/3 innings at second base in 2020, but the opportunity for appearances will be impacted by Castro’s return this season. Even though García already established himself as a Major Leaguer, he has to vie for playing time again.
“It would not be difficult at all,” García said, when asked about the possibility of spending time in the Minors this season. “I’ve always told myself that I’m going to control what I can control. Everything else that I can’t control, I’m not going to worry about. I’m here to help the team in any way that I can to help them win. So, that’s one of those things that it’s not going to be difficult for me if that were to happen.”
García made a strong impression for the way he stepped up when called upon. He made his Major League debut on Aug. 14, and he slashed .276/.302/.366 with 37 hits, 16 RBIs and two homers in 139 plate appearances. García became the first player born in the 2000s to hit a home run, and he went yard to lift the Nats over the Rays in a 10-inning win. Defensively, he posted a .954 fielding percentage at second base.
When it comes to earning playing time on the Nationals, though, García is not limited to the opportunities to second base. He came up in their system as a shortstop, and manager Dave Martinez is getting looks at García there during Spring Training games. While Trea Turner is locked in as the starter, García could provide depth as a backup. Last season, he played 13 innings at shortstop.
“I love everything about playing shortstop,” García said. “I grew up as a little kid playing that position, and I feel very comfortable, and feel like I can play very well there. I love that position, the long throws. Second base, I do the same. I enjoy the position. It’s a shorter throw, but I enjoy that, and I embrace the position as well.”
García has formed a close relationship with Castro and Turner, and he considers them like brothers. When García's not seeking out advice, they’re coming to him with it. That’s part of the learning process, in addition to the work the Nats tasked him with this offseason.
“He put on a little strength weight on him,” Martinez said. “Our biggest thing with him was his agility, and so far his footwork has been good, he’s moving really well.”
The most important lesson García, who turns 21 in May, has taken from his big league experience is having confidence in himself. The Nationals have it in him, too.
“The future is bright for him with us,” Martinez said. “We know he's going to help us here -- whether it's the start of the season, early in the season, middle of the season -- but you'll see Luis with us sometime soon.”