Farewell to this Astro's unique delivery

February 15th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Brian McTaggart’s Astros Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Astros pitcher  will have to put his “rock the baby” pitching windup to bed.

The Astros were informed in December by Major League Baseball that Garcia’s signature windup -- in which he rocks his arms back and forth, then takes one step forward and one step backward before delivering the ball -- would no longer be legal under the new pitch timer rules.

The new rule states a pitcher must have a clear point to begin his delivery in order to stop the pitch timer, and Garcia’s multiple steps and arm motions don’t provide that. The rule says the pitcher is permitted to take one step back (or laterally) and one step forward. Thus, taking multiple steps before lifting the free leg is now deemed an illegal pitch movement.

“We just had to get a hold of Luis and told him that it might not be allowed, so we need to practice something a little more traditional,” Houston pitching coach Josh Miller said.

Garcia’s pitching motion is one of the most recognizable in baseball and has been celebrated on T-shirts in Houston. He makes a motion similar to rocking a baby when he begins his windup, moving his arms back and forth while holding his glove. Garcia started throwing that way years ago while trying to find a delivery that was repeatable.

Now, Miller said, his windup will look different this spring.

“Yeah, he's been throwing [a different] way since we talked to him there in mid-to-late December, so I'd expect to see a little different delivery from him from the windup,” he said.

Garcia, an international free agent from Venezuela, jumped from Class A to the big leagues during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season and hasn’t looked back. In 63 career regular-season games (57 starts), he’s gone 26-17 with a 3.57 ERA and is entrenched in Houston’s deep starting rotation.

Last year, Garcia went 15-8 with a 3.72 ERA in 28 regular-season starts but was limited to 5 2/3 relief innings in the postseason because the Astros had so much pitching depth along with numerous days off.

“The uniqueness of his delivery has played to some of his success,” Miller said. “He started doing something last year where he would alter the timing of his leg lift, and it would disrupt the timing of the hitter. I think any time you do a major change with something, you’ve got to expect some growing pains, and it'll take some time to get comfortable with a new delivery … or an old delivery that he hasn't used in a while. Luis is a really good athlete, and we expect him to adapt very well.”

Miller rode with Garcia atop a truck during the Astros’ World Series championship parade in November and said fans who recognized Garcia repeatedly mimicked his pitching motion while standing along the parade route. And starting this year, fans will be the only ones at Minute Maid Park allowed to rock the baby.

“It’s a signature move for him,” Miller said. “If he's not able to use it anymore, it'll be a shame in my opinion. But like I said, I'm sure he'll adapt and do fine without it.”