Garcia shows promise in side session

Garcia shows promise in side session

CHICAGO -- During the past few days, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen had heard a lot of friendly chatter from Freddy Garcia as to how good he was going to look once he took the mound.

On Monday, during his first side session at U.S. Cellular Field in his second stint with the White Sox, Garcia backed up his words with his pitches.

"He really impressed me," said Guillen of his good friend, who played catch, long toss and then threw a sideline well before the first pitch of the series opener with the Rays. "He's come a long way. He threw all his pitches, and I never thought Freddy would be at this level as fast as he is."

Garcia, 33, had been working out and getting baseball ready at the complexes associated with Class A Kannapolis and Triple-A Charlotte after the White Sox signed him to a Minor League deal on June 8. But even Monday's encouraging side session represents an early step in the journey back to the White Sox starting rotation.

According to pitching coach Don Cooper, Garcia will need four or five Minor League starts to build up his pitches, his arm strength and his stamina. There's certainly no question about Garcia's pitching ability or his ability to excel in big games, as anyone who watched him pitch in the deciding game of the 2005 World Series can attest.

"You realize with Freddy, he could get up on Christmas morning and he could throw you curve balls, sliders and changeups," said Cooper. "He has tremendous feel for those pitches. All of those secondary pitches were there.

"Where I was surprised was his fastball and his location of such. He surprised me where he was at right now. It's showing real positive signs of being ready down the road and being able to come here and help us."

Bartolo Colon also was in the White Sox clubhouse on Monday, and as long as his left knee tests out OK, he is on target to start one of the games against Detroit in Friday's split doubleheader at Comerica Park. Next up for Garcia is another side session in Chicago on Thursday, followed by a trip to the Minors.

"Freddy is still a long time away," Guillen said. "Freddy has to go down and face some hitters. I don't know what level it's going to be, but we want to see him before we make that move.

"When you have to pitch, you have to face real hitters. But if he keeps doing what he's doing, I think he can help us soon."

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