Barbershop days behind Garcia with Phils debut

Barbershop days behind Garcia with Phils debut

PHILADELPHIA -- Luis Garcia did not have high expectations after a tryout he attended in January.

There were plenty of reasons for the pitcher not to get his hopes up. Garcia had been out of organizational baseball for two years while he worked in a barbershop and for a moving company in New Jersey. The last time he pitched, he posted an 11.57 ERA in nine games for the Newark Bears, an independent team.

So as days passed and Garcia didn't hear about an opportunity to revive his career, he did not think too much of it. But then he got a call from the Phillies.

"I thought, 'Oh, I'm going to stop playing again,' because I was throwing pretty hard and nobody said they were going to give me a chance," Garcia said. "So, I stopped for a little bit, like two weeks, but then the Phillies called me and said, 'Hey we're going to see you.' "

What the Phillies saw was a right-hander with a 94-97-mph fastball and a pretty good slider. After watching Garcia throw again, Philadelphia decided to give him a chance. The reliever never pitched above Class A before this season, but he raced through the Phillies' Minor League system, getting hitters out efficiently at every level.

With the Phillies' bullpen facing a multitude of injuries and in need of capable arms, Garcia got called up to the Majors from Triple-A Lehigh Valley on Tuesday. The 26-year-old was summoned from the 'pen Wednesday and pitched a scoreless eighth inning against the Nationals.

He had made it from the barbershop to the big leagues.

"I wasn't really thinking that much," Garcia said of his first Major League outing. "The first day I was really nervous, yesterday was better. I was focused, just trying to get people out, throw strikes."

Garcia, a native of the Dominican Republic, faced the heart of the Nationals' order. Ryan Zimmerman reached on a strike-three wild pitch and Jayson Werth walked, but Garcia was able to escape unscathed when he got Adam LaRoche to ground into a double play.

It's been a whirlwind ride for Garcia in the past few months, one that he said he could not envision.

"I was in standard Spring Training, then I moved to up to High-A, I was thinking I was going to stay there for a whole year," said Garcia. "Then I moved to Double-A, and I was thinking the same thing. Then they moved me to Triple-A, and I was like 'OK, that's it.' But now I'm here."

Garcia's professional journey started in the Dominican Summer League for the Dodgers' organization in 2006. He made it as far as Class A Potomac with the Nationals in both 2009 and '10, but Garcia struggled three years ago and had a 10.38 ERA in six games with Potomac.

After the 2010 campaign, he said he lost contact with his agent, and then quit professional baseball.

"The last year was 2010, and that was not a good year for me," Garcia said. "My agent just disappeared, I had nobody to get people to see me and get a contract, so I just decided to stop."

Garcia still had ties to the sport after 2010. He taught the game at a New Jersey clinic, a job he got when he was searching for some place to throw in a bullpen. Then last year, he played in the independent Can-Am League and struggled, which he attributed to a lack of practice.

But Garcia wanted another shot in baseball, which came when a friend told him about the tryout just six months ago.

"You'd be surprised, since I've been a manager, in the Minor Leagues and the Major Leagues, how many people call me and want to get back in the game," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "Once they get out, they want back to get another chance. They like it more than they think they do, and they're more dedicated than they think they are."

The 6-foot-3, 230-pound Garcia had a combined 1.67 ERA and 39 strikeouts in 37 2/3 innings at three Minor League levels this season. Garcia said improvement of his slider and fastball, as well as better control, are reasons for his success this season, and he is obviously hoping to pitch well enough to stay in the Majors.

He said he was not that good at cutting hair, anyway.

"Now I know how hard it is to be out," Garcia said. "I appreciate the opportunities now. I work harder and I know what I have to do now."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for Stephen Pianovich is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.