DUNEDIN, Fla. -- It didn't take Jaime Garcia very long at all to settle into a Blue Jays uniform. Less than 24 hours after signing a one-year deal, the veteran lefty reported to camp and was throwing at Toronto's Minor League complex.The Blue Jays hope Garcia is the final piece
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- It didn't take Jaime Garcia very long at all to settle into a Blue Jays uniform. Less than 24 hours after signing a one-year deal, the veteran lefty reported to camp and was throwing at Toronto's Minor League complex.
The Blue Jays hope Garcia is the final piece to their pitching puzzle. He brings nine years of experience to the table and has a 3.69 ERA over 1,053 career innings. The 31-year-old is set to open the year as Toronto's No. 5 starter behind Marcus Stroman, J.A. Happ, Aaron Sanchez and Marco Estrada.
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If Toronto intends to contend this year, the rotation will have to be a major strength. Garcia's presence should help, as he represents an upgrade over incumbent Joe Biagini and gives the club some much-needed depth.
"I think it's one of the best in baseball," Garcia said of his new staff. "It's extremely talented. You have some of the younger, best pitchers in the game, to a couple of guys who have been around, like myself, that compete. All I can say is that I'm extremely excited to work with those guys and learn from them. If there's anything they can learn from me, that's what I'm here for."
Garcia is particularly excited to be working alongside fellow countrymen Estrada and Roberto Osuna. All three hail from Mexico and -- with a small number of players from that country in the Major Leagues -- the trio has formed a special bond over the years. Osuna might seem like a veteran after three years in the big leagues, but he is still just 23 years old, and the Blue Jays believe Garcia's presence will help the impressionable closer.
"He's extremely talented," Garcia said. "He's one of the best young pitchers in the game. I was talking to him a little while ago and he's a great kid. He likes to work, he wants to learn, he wants to get better. That's what I'm here for. I'm going to be there for him, I'm going to be there for all of the guys, and if there's anything he can learn from me, that's what I'm here for."
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More time off for Martin?
The Blue Jays are openly talking about finding ways to give Russell Martin more time, but they have yet to come up with a concrete plan for accomplishing it. Martin turned 35 earlier this week and is coming off a season in which he had a pair of lengthy stints on the disabled list.
"We talk about it all the time, Russ is so driven, and so competitive and wants so badly to be out there," Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said. "We've talked about that with him. About trying to balance that together. He has thought about that as well.
"I would give you a very large range that you could probably come up with yourself. Whether that's 90 games, or 130 games, we'll see. Once the games start and as we get deeper into the season, I can tell you it's going to be really hard to get Russ out of the lineup because of how competitive and driven he is."
Status quo, for now
Toronto's decision to sign Garcia cost Biagini his spot in the rotation. Biagini now finds himself sixth on Toronto's starting pitching depth chart, and will need a spot to open up this spring before an opportunity to start at the big league level presents itself again.
Despite the addition of Garcia, the short-term plan for Biagini remains unchanged. He will continue to get stretched out this spring and will work through Grapefruit League games as a starter. After that, all bets are off, as Biagini would become a candidate to start the year in the bullpen or be sent to Triple-A Buffalo.
"That would probably be less than ideal for Joe, but I think Joe understands that it's his career," Atkins said in reference to Biagini possibly being sent down. "It's not just about the month of April for the Toronto Blue Jays. We'll see where that goes, but a lot of information [is yet] to come. If we have that challenge, that means we have five very healthy starters all the way through the course of Spring Training, and that would be a great challenge to have."
Quotable: "What do I care? I didn't say them." -- Manager John Gibbons, when asked for his thoughts on Stroman's public comments about losing his arbitration case
Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.