Garcia, Vazquez a World apart

Garcia, Vazquez a World apart on Classic

CHICAGO -- Where Freddy Garcia, Javier Vazquez and their respective views on the World Baseball Classic are concerned, the two White Sox hurlers agree to disagree.

Garcia expressed the sentiment earlier this week that he would not participate a second time for Venezuela during the next international baseball competition. Vazquez, meanwhile, forcefully stated Wednesday that there's no doubt he would pitch for Puerto Rico again if invited to do so.

The concern for both All-Star caliber hurlers centered on not letting the three weeks away from their team and working with their country during Spring Training affect their preparation for the 2006 season, especially with a defense of the franchise's first World Series title since 1917 on the line. Their pitching in March also took on a little different level of significance, comparing the advancement in this inaugural, somewhat high-pressure tournament, to a Cactus League contest, specifically designed to pick up requisite innings.

According to pitching coach Don Cooper, Vazquez admitted to being mentally drained when he returned to the White Sox. But two months into the season, Cooper has not seen any difference, in terms of results and certainly health-wise, brought on by their regular spring schedule being turned slightly askew.

"Even though they threw more competitive pitches earlier in Spring Training than ever before, I don't see anything physically taken away from them," Cooper said. "Hopefully, they are feeling stronger and better as the season goes on.

"For the guys who are having trouble after pitching there, I think maybe that's the easy cop out," Cooper added.

After returning from a tremendous effort for Venezuela, in which he struck out 11 and posted a 1.23 ERA over 7 1/3 innings, Garcia had a bullpen session in the cold and damp conditions of Arizona where his speed gun readings were barely measurable. The velocity on Garcia's pitches really didn't pick up from the mid-80s to the low 90s, where the right-hander usually resides, until his fourth start of 2006, and Garcia needed a full month before he started to locate the strike zone on a start-to-start basis. He has issued just one walk in his last 29 1/3 innings.

Manager Ozzie Guillen pointed to the Classic as a possible reason for Garcia's slow production out of the gates, making that particular comment after Garcia's victory Saturday over the Cubs improved his ledger to 7-1 for the season and gave the right-hander a seven-game winning streak. But Guillen added an important piece of analysis Wednesday, in regard to Garcia's personal preparation, as he makes an attempt at victory No. 8 Friday night in Toronto.

Any struggles experienced by Garcia stemmed from his personal preparation, as opposed to a World Baseball Classic aftershock.

"I don't think Freddy was prepared well enough to go to the [World Baseball Classic] and then come back to Spring Training and do it again," Guillen said. "And I said earlier that if you aren't prepared to go to the Cup when you get to Spring Training, you shouldn't go.

"But if you make the commitment to go for your own country, you should get prepared as soon as the season is over," Guillen added.

Vazquez followed the road described by Guillen, throwing bullpen sessions in his native Puerto Rico far earlier than he usually would work out for an average Spring Training. Possibly because of that preparation and dedication, Vazquez said there hasn't been a noticeable change in either direction brought on by the World Baseball Classic.

The expressed desire by Garcia to skip the next round of international competition could be a bit more personal than physical. After altering his schedule to perform for Venezuela at the Classic, Garcia felt somewhat betrayed when a report out of the Venezuelan newspaper, Lider, indicated he violated the International Baseball Amateur Federation anti-doping policy when marijuana was found in the pitcher's urine in a test administered during the World Baseball Classic.

Since that report came out in late April, Garcia said he has not heard another word about the alleged test. Yet, he hasn't forgotten the attack in print.

"That is disappointing for me. It's really bad," Garcia said. "I played for my country and they do all that stuff to me. That's not fair.

"I wasn't under any pressure to go there. It was fun to participate in all of the games. But if I have to do it again, I don't think it's going to happen. It was hard to go there and not have the same preparation or training. It's not the same."

Pitchers such as Minnesota's Johan Santana and the Cubs' Carlos Zambrano, who also participated in the Classic, have turned in better May results than they did in April -- much like Garcia. It could have taken them time to bounce back after the Classic, or it could be sheer coincidence.

Regardless of the cause and effect, one thing seems to be true in the case of Garcia and Vazquez. Their combined 12-4 record certainly doesn't show much wear and tear as part of baseball's most dominant starting rotation.

"It's a little more work than Spring Training and every pitch has more pressure," said Vazquez, who next starts Monday in Cleveland, of the Classic. "But seriously, for me, it was pretty normal. I've been feeling good."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.