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Now healthy, Garcia ready to contribute

NEW YORK -- Eleven months and a day will have passed between Jaime Garcia's final outing in 2014 and his first this season, which is why the simple act of taking the mound in Thursday's series finale against the Mets will mark a notable accomplishment for the lefty.

What the Cardinals need, however, is for him to prove he's able to stay on it.

"Just the fact that I'm here and able to go out there and be on a Major League mound, that's a lot for me," said Garcia, whose 2014 season ended when he underwent surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome in July. "I've worked so hard to get to this point. I'm at a point where I'm just going to go out there and do the same thing that I have tried to do over the last five years -- keep us in the game and give us a chance to win."

The Cardinals also hope that he can seize a rotation spot that has been up for grabs since Adam Wainwright sustained a season-ending injury on April 24. Tim Cooney came and went after one ineffective start. Tyler Lyons was underwhelming in his three outings.

Unlike those two lefties, Garcia has a track record that reflects some sustained success in the Majors. But it's also a resume dotted with injury interruptions. Garcia, who underwent Tommy John surgery in 2008, has had a ticker tape of shoulder problems since 2012. That's why over the last two seasons, he's given the Cardinals only 16 starts.

"There is that last spot available for someone to take advantage of," manager Mike Matheny said. "It will come down to not just health, but to how he performs and how he competes, and then health will be a part of whether that continues or not. We just take every day we've got with him, and we'll see what he has when he goes out there."

Garcia was poised to win a rotation job in spring until his shoulder stopped responding late in March. He halted his throwing program for some time before restarting the buildup process. That culminated on Friday, when he threw 90 pitches in a rehab start with the Double-A club.

Garcia's strong start that night, coupled with Lyons' lackluster outing the next, led the Cardinals to forgo extending Garcia's time in the Minors. He is not expected to be on a strict pitch count on Thursday.

"We need somebody to go deep for us," Matheny said. "We need somebody to shine. We gave Tim a shot and Tyler starts, but you could see we still needed [a better option]."

Garcia, having already overcome so much, is ready for his shot.

"Obviously, the team has a need right now," Garcia said. "I'm not putting any extra pressure on myself. I'll just worry about the things that I can control, and worry about the things that I need to do to get ready for the next start."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB, like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for and listen to her podcast.
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