Return to big leagues a 'reward' for Tigers' Rony Garcia after two offseason surgeries

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
View Comments

Milwaukee — He thought he was in trouble. He knew he’d been messing up on his chart duty between starts, and he knew pitching coach Doug Bochtler was getting frustrated with him. So, when Tigers pitcher Rony Garcia was summoned to Triple-A Toledo manager Tom Prince’s office Saturday night in Louisville, he expected a scolding.

Which is what he got.

Rony Garcia has 24 strikeouts in 19.2 innings in four starts with Triple-A Toledo this season.

But with a twist.

“I knew and I recognize I was having trouble keeping the charts,” Garcia said through Tigers bilingual interpreter Carlos Guillen before the game here Monday. “So he started the conversation about the charts and all that.

“Then he said, ‘By the way, you’re going to the big leagues.’”

Garcia’s face lit up telling the story, to the point where you didn’t need to ask how it felt to be back.

“It’s a big reward,” he said.

Garcia, who spent last season with the Tigers as a Rule 5 rookie, was recalled from Triple-A Toledo on Saturday, replacing struggling right-hander Bryan Garcia, who was optioned back.

And when Rony Garcia says it's a reward — it's not completely for how well he's been pitching. It’s been a hellish journey back for the 23-year-old Dominican-born right-hander. He missed all of spring training after not one but two appendectomy surgeries — the first on Dec. 28 and, after it became infected again, a second surgery on Feb. 2.

“It was an emergency,” he said. “It was super uncomfortable and dangerous.”

After he got the initial diagnosis, he thought it was going to cost him the entire season which compounded his anxiety. 

“Some people told me it takes three or four months to even just start working out again,” he said. “But then I came here (to the United States) and our team doctors told me it wouldn’t be that bad.”

He was unable to do any physical activity for several weeks and he lost significant weight and strength, which further delayed starting his throwing program.

“By the third week after I got to the U.S. I started feeling better,” he said. “I was able to start a recovery program and fortunately I didn’t have any setbacks going forward. And now everything is back. Everything is normal, just like at the end of last year.”

He made four starts at Toledo, including five shutout innings Thursday. His fastball is sitting 94-95 mph and his slider, which is his money pitch, was dominating Triple-A hitters. He had 24 strikeouts and 10 walks in 19.2 innings.

And he came in hot Monday. He gave the Tigers three scoreless, hitless innings in the 3-2, 10-inning loss to the Brewers.

“We like the way he was throwing the ball,” manager AJ Hinch said. “We didn’t get a healthy look at him this spring, and the reports we’ve gotten from Tom and the guys were all favorable. We’re starting to give opportunities to many people.”

One of the perks of being in the big leagues, too — Garcia won’t have to worry about charting pitches between outings.

Get it fixed

Bryan Garcia’s issues this season, starting in spring training, have been confounding to the Tigers. He finished the 2020 season as the club’s closer, showing not only a firm, well-located sinker and a wipeout slider, but precise command of his pitches.

Hasn’t been the same. His strike rate has fallen from 63% to 58% and his walk rate has risen from 10.8 to 15.6. He’s walked 14 hitters in 18.2 innings.

“He was fighting a little bit of everything, and that’s exactly the message we delivered in our meeting,” Hinch said. “He’s got to get it right. He hasn’t quite been in sync and not in command of his pitches. He was throwing so many non-competitive pitches and fighting his delivery and not being able to correct it.

“He’d usually escape his outings, but it felt like an escape more than he was in control of the moment.”

Bottom line, Hinch and his staff have yet to see the pitcher Garcia was at the end of last season, not from the first day of spring training to his outing Sunday when he gave up two runs to the Yankees.

“Coming into the season there was a lot of talk of him being a primary reliever in the back end in some capacity,” Hinch said. “Reports last season were that he could really hit his spots at any given time and could do anything he wanted with his fastball and slider, especially glove side down and in.

“We haven’t seen that.”

Around the horn

Catcher Grayson Greiner’s rehab stint has been halted and he will be shut down again for at least another five days. He felt more discomfort in his left hamstring after playing in two games at Toledo. “He continued to report soreness so we had to make a transaction,” Hinch said. “We had to pull him off his rehab start. It’s not a significant set back but it is a set back.”

... Veteran right-hander Wily Peralta was under consideration for the call-up Saturday night, but he left his last outing in Toledo with a finger issue, Hinch said. 

Tigers at Brewers

First pitch: 7:40 p.m., American Family Field, Milwaukee

TV/Radio: BSD, 97.1 FM

Scouting report

LHP Matthew Boyd (2-6, 3.43), Tigers: He’s gotten two runs of offensive support or less in six of his 10 starts and he’s pitched with buzzard’s luck in most of them. The chase rate on all of his pitches is still in the upper 90 percentile in baseball and the exit velocity on balls put in plays against him is meek 88 mph.

LHP Eric Lauer (1-1, 2.45), Brewers: This will be just his fourth big-league start this season, but he limited the Padres to a run with six strikeouts over six innings in his last one. He gets a lot of swings and misses with his 93 mph four-seam (36% miss rate) and 90 mph cutter (26% miss rate), and a lot of weak contract with his slider.

chris.mccosky@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @cmccosky

View Comments