Garcia becomes the third entrant to try to temporarily fill the White Sox fifth-starter vacancy, created by the trade of Clayton Richard, and more importantly, Jake Peavy's ongoing injury rehab with Triple-A Charlotte. Valuable middle reliever D.J. Carrasco and Minor League callup Carlos Torres each had a one-start shot at the job prior to Garcia. But Garcia should not be looked at as a one- or two-time spot starter, even with Peavy expected back on Aug. 28.
With Jose Contreras struggling mightily over his past six starts, allowing 24 earned runs over 28 1/3 innings, a strong effort from Garcia could propel him into a permanent starting spot over the season's final six weeks. Manager Ozzie Guillen will go with the hot hand, both in the field and on the mound, but cautions fans not to expect the 2005 Garcia to take the field against the Royals.
"He knows how to pitch, he knows how to get people out," said Guillen. "I think he'll be fine. He knows how to do stuff out there."
"All I need to know is that he's healthy and he's got his arm strength to where it is at a point where he can effectively use his offspeed stuff to complement [his fastball]," said White Sox general manager Ken Williams. "His fastball doesn't have to be 93 [mph] because of his second and third pitch."
Garcia rejoined the White Sox via a Minor League contract agreed to back at the beginning of June, with Garcia using the past two months to get into pitching shape after being cut by the Mets. Garcia made two starts for New York's Triple-A affiliate in Buffalo back in April and yielded 10 runs on 12 hits in 11 innings.
During his four recent starts with Charlotte, Class A Kannapolis and Bristol, Garcia gave up four earned runs in 20 innings while fanning 19. His right shoulder, operated on in 2007, progressed to the point where he was throwing in the low 90s during his latest injury rehab.
"Last time I was pitching in Buffalo? Terrible," Garcia said. "My shoulder was bothering me. But in Kannapolis, I'm better."
High velocity has not always been the name of the game for Garcia. In fact, it never was the speed of the fastball alone that made Garcia successful.
Take Garcia's last Major League start as an example. It came for Detroit on Sept. 29, 2008, in a makeup game at U.S. Cellular Field that took place the day after the regular season ended. It was a game Garcia's old friends needed to win to force a one-game playoff with the Twins to decide the American League Central, but Garcia didn't give in even without close to his best stuff.
He exited after five innings after giving up just two runs on two hits and keeping the White Sox completely off balance. It's that sort of pitching guile -- on display when Garcia was the winning pitcher in the clinching game of the 2005 World Series sweep of Houston and throughout a career that has produced a 118-77 record -- which has his teammates excited to have him in a White Sox uniform again.
And the bottom line is that every game Garcia pitches from here on out will be a big one.
"Freddy is a guy that can switch gears if he feels he doesn't have the fastball," White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko said. "He can mix it up with sliders and changeups and just pitch.
"If he's throwing harder, that's even better because he can keep people honest with that. Freddy is one of a kind, that's the only way I can describe him. He knows how to pitch. He battles.
"Sometimes early in the game, it doesn't look like he is going to make it through. Then he is in the seventh or eighth and you wonder how he got there, but he has done it so many time it's not by accident."
CWS: RHP Freddy Garcia (1-1, 4.20 ERA in 2008)
Garcia hasn't pitched in the Major Leagues since last September as a member of the Detroit Tigers, but the White Sox are hoping to capture a glimpse of the Garcia who led them to the 2005 World Series championship. He's 0-3 with a 6.35 ERA in three Triple-A starts this season and 8-11 with a 6.12 ERA lifetime against the Royals.
KC: RHP Gil Meche (5-9, 4.62 ERA)
Returning after missing more than a month and at least four starts because of back problems, Meche pitched five innings last Thursday at Minnesota and emerged with a victory. For the first four innings, he filled the strike zone and held the Twins to just one run although he did give up a three-run homer to Joe Mauer in the fifth. The good news was that there was no recurrence of his back problems. This year against the White Sox, Meche has no decisions in two starts although he went seven innings each time and had a 1.94 ERA. And he's 7-3 against them in his career.
Alex Rios had his second outfield miscommunication since joining the White Sox, with a Mitch Maier fly ball falling in between Rios and Jermaine Dye in the fourth inning Monday. Rios believes nothing more than time will get him adjusted to the outfielders around him when he's playing center field. "I need to get more comfortable and learn how they move," Rios said. "I'll pick it up in a few days." ... Guillen said that designated hitter Jim Thome, battling a sore left heel, was available to pinch-hit on Monday but was not sure when he will return to the lineup. ... A.J. Pierzynski's 13th home run matched his season total from 2008. ... Jayson Nix tied Baltimore's Nolan Reimold for first place among AL rookies in home runs with his 10th long ball. ... Dye has reached base in six consecutive plate appearances. He's 7-for-13 in his past four games after going 1-for-18 in his previous five games. ... Monday's game started after a 58-minute rain delay. ... The White Sox are 18-8 at home since June 24.
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Wednesday: White Sox (Jose Contreras, 4-11, 5.40) vs. Royals (Zack Greinke, 11-7, 2.33), 1:05 p.m. CT
Friday: White Sox (Gavin Floyd, 10-7, 3.94) vs. Orioles (TBD), 7:11 p.m. CT