No longer under radar, Garcia realizing dream
After working through injury in 2014, reliever thriving in big leagues
LOS ANGELES -- There's a generation of Dominican boys that grew up wanting to be the next Pedro Martinez, and Yimi Garcia is one of them.
Garcia wanted no part of carpenter life like his father or hospital work like his mother. And he wanted to leave the island -- an opportunity afforded to few in his hometown of Moca, in the highlands.
Garcia outworked the other kids that aspired to be the next Pedro. At age 15, Garcia was taken to tryout camps in Bani by his local coach and promoter Tony Garcia, because "scouts don't go to Moca," where the only significant Major Leaguer the city produced was Damaso Garcia (no relation).
At the relatively advanced age of 18, Garcia signed for a modest $50,000 bonus in 2009.
Garcia is one of the surviving jewels from those years, along with Pedro Baez, Carlos Frias and the since-traded Jose Dominguez and Rubby De La Rosa.
Garcia will be able to put his 65-year-old parents on their first flight off the island to come watch him pitch in person for the first time later this year. But he won't be bringing his siblings just yet -- he has 10 of them.
Manager Don Mattingly said the Dodgers "missed the boat" on Garcia, a harsh explanation for why the 24-year-old snuck up to make the big league team and fill a hole after injuries to Kenley Jansen and Brandon League.
A right knee injury during Spring Training in 2014 dropped Garcia off the staff's radar. He never pitched in a spring game, while young Dominguez was hitting 100 mph and Baez was getting the Sandy Koufax seal of approval.
Garcia quietly rehabbed the knee, progressed through the system, got the September callup and posted a 1.80 ERA.
"At the end of June, his velocity jumped, and the 94-95 [mph] started to come out," said Rick Knapp, the Minor League pitching coordinator. "The slider that was always a sore spot is now a weapon. He used the Minor Leagues for exactly what they're for. It's a great thing for a coordinator to see. He makes me proud."
Garcia wasn't expected to outpitch some well-known names in Arizona to make the current staff that opens a series in San Francisco on Tuesday night. He's 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA and 12 strikeouts in seven innings.
"His velocity now is the fastest I've ever seen him throw," said former general manager Ned Colletti. "I guess he didn't burst on the scene because of velocity. He always had plus-command and was a strike thrower."
Now the late-inning, swing-and-miss stuff is complemented by a sharp slider refined by his younger brother Jairo (a Yankees farmhand). Then there's the swagger that's a natural outgrowth of Major League success.
"I always believed I could do this," Garcia said.
Garcia worked with Pedro's big brother when Ramon was a Dodgers instructor. Garcia knows that Pedro is now a commentator for MLB Network.
"He's my favorite," said Garcia. "I hope I can meet him."