With St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Jaime Garcia being bothered by his shoulder for a third straight season, I can’t help but think of former Chicago Cubs pitcher Mark Prior. I don’t see it as a Rick Ankiel redux because Garcia hasn’t lost control of the strike zone.
Garcia blossomed into a top prospect after being drafted in the 22nd round of the 2005 draft while Prior was drafted by the Cubs as the second overall pick in the 2001 draft. Entering the 2010 season, Garcia was seen as the 2nd best prospect by Derrick Goold and Baseball America behind 2009 draft pick Shelby Miller.
While Garcia made his debut during the 2008 season, he missed all of 2009 with Tommy John surgery.
Garcia pitched well in 2010 after rebounding from surgery. He would go on to have a solid season in 2011 as well. Prior pitched well in 2002 and 2003–his second season with the Cubs.
It was not until the third major league season that both started to see real issues with their arms. For Prior, it meant starting the 2004 season on the DL. For Garcia, it meant missing portions of the 2012 season to rehab the shoulder as opposed to opting for another surgery. Prior missed a month of the 2005 season.
Garcia was shut down in May 2013 and opted for surgery. Prior missed most of 2006 and only pitched between mid-June and mid-August.
When healthy, both of these pitchers were seen as solid contributors to their team’s pitching staff. Prior was “ruined” by then-Cubs manager Dusty Baker in the same way that his teammate, Kerry Wood, was as well.
Garcia is signed with the Cardinals until 2015. His four-four deal will cost the Cardinals $27 million. With his health issues of late, it seems unlikely that the team picks up his 2016 team option–not with left-handed pitchers such as Tim Cooney, Marco Gonzales, and Rob Kaminsky waiting in the wing towards the end of 2014.
I wish Jaime the best and wished that things could have worked out differently.