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May 5, 2011 at 8:00 AM

Q&A with Jason Garcia

As a 17th round pick out of high school in the 2010 Draft, Jason Garcia has not gotten much attention yet, but the right-handed pitcher could end up being a sleeper pick. Garcia dominated in his senior year season at Land O’ Lakes High School near Tampa, FL, posting a 2.01 ERA and striking out 72 batters in 58 innings. Originally committed to Florida Atlantic University, Garcia ended up signing with the Red Sox and went straight to the Gulf Coast League, where he posted a respectable 3.03 ERA, a 1.25 WHIP, and struck out 17 batters over 29.7 innings.

After paying a visit to the Fall Instructional League this past offseason and experiencing his first Minor League Spring Training camp this spring, Garcia is learning to deal with the ups and downs that come with the game, and that patience is indeed a virtue. I recently had the opportunity to talk with Garcia at extended spring training and he told me that he has been working hard on his mechanics and his approach since joining the organization. There is no doubt that his attitude will take him far.

Elizabeth Dreeson: Between which seasons in high school did you mature and develop the most?
Jason Garcia: I would say my junior year: between the winter league and right before my spring season. I started throwing strikes, [and] I figured out my mechanics. That’s when I figured myself out and learned how to pitch. Before that I was out there throwing the ball, but I went out there my junior spring and dominated a lot. I started getting recognition from some colleges, and then that summer I started getting noticed by some major league teams and a lot more colleges.

ED: At one point in high school did you become aware that you were a draft prospect?
JG: Not until my senior spring season about halfway.

ED: Did that kind of add any pressure?
JG: Not really.

ED: Describe your arsenal a little bit.
JG: In high school I was big sinker pitcher, threw a lot of two-seams, come with that slider. I never really threw a changeup—I probably threw a changeup once in high school. That was my arsenal in high school, now I’m still trying to figure that out. It changed a little bit in my mechanics and trying to figure out our [plan] since I’m at a young age still, so right now [I’m] still trying to figure that out.

ED: So what exactly has the organization changed about your mechanics, if at all?
JG: Arm slot.

ED: From what to what?
JG: I was more of a low three-quarters pitcher [in high school], and they’re trying to bring me up higher to a high three-quarters right now. We took away the two-seam [fastball], we’re working on the four-seam, which I never really used to throw. We’re still trying to figure that out to be more consistent with those pitches and become a pitcher.

ED: Do you know what the organization’s plans are for you at this point?
JG: We had our player plan meeting at the beginning of spring training. They said they would give me a chance for Greenville. That didn’t happen, of course, but they said if not, just throw in extended spring training and go to Lowell. So hopefully, if I can figure out a rhythm, I’ll be in Lowell when the time comes.

ED: What was your biggest challenge last year?
JG: Adjusting to pro-ball was, definitely. The speed of the game and not letting the game speed up on me, and I think how to hold runners because in high school I never really had to deal with that. And it’s a lot harder to strike guys out here than it was in high school.

ED: By the game speeding up to you, do you mean runners on?
JG: Runners on, just plays always being called and stuff like that.

ED: How have you adjusted so far to pitching from the stretch?
JG: At first it was really slow. I had one of the worst times to the plate this summer, and then we had TJ Large come [last] summer for rehab, and I talked to him about it. He worked with me for about two weeks on that, and I got my time down big time, so I would say that was a big step—a big challenge, but I worked hard at it, and now my time is down. Now it’s just trying to stay consistent over the rubber. [There are] still some little things but it’s coming.

ED: What is the biggest thing you have learned since joining the organization?
JG: Patience.

ED: In what sense?
JG: Everything. In high school, I didn’t really have to work out. At first I got here, and they told me: “This is your goal,” and I would try to go out there [and try to accomplish it] in a week and was in the gym all the time. Between working out, getting a feel throwing-wise, and just everything, I have learned to be patient. I was trying to do too much at first.

ED: What was your catcher like in high school? Was it fairly consistent? Was it even a good one?
JG: I had a pretty decent catcher. We had two catchers that would swap out, so it wasn’t like I had the same one every time, but we had two pretty decent catchers.

ED: Now that you’re part of a professional organization, you have better catchers. How has this benefited you?
JG: It gives you a lot more confidence knowing that if you maybe throw a slider away and it’s in the dirt—in high school, my catcher wouldn’t get that. Or [if I threw a] two-seam in, my catcher in high school would sometimes get that away. Now not much is going to get by these catchers, and if [it does], it’s rare [to] see that. It gives you a lot more confidence to just throw pitches with conviction.

ED: What have you noticed about the differences between high school hitters and professional hitters? How are they better, and what is it about them that makes them better?
JG: They pick up the littlest mistakes. In high school, if my catcher would tell me low and away, I could miss right down the middle and hitters wouldn’t hit that. Hitters are smarter now. I think in high school, guys just went out there and swung. With those metal bats you can jam a guy inside [and] the ball is still going to go somewhere; here you can't do that. Hitters are a lot smarter here. They don’t swing at junk pitches.

ED: If you had to hit against yourself, what weaknesses would you take advantage of?
: I would say maybe my fastball. I’m having a little trouble right now locating that. I have noticed that I have been leaving that up. I have a good feel for the changeup, and the slider, I can throw that pretty good, so I would say the fastball.

ED: What kind of pitcher would you describe yourself as? Are you a power pitcher or do you rely on your off-speed stuff more?
JG: I feel like its 50/50. Some days I’ll have to rely on my off-speed [pitches], and some days I’ll just dominate with the fastball.

ED: What do you think your greatest strength is as a pitcher at this point?
JG: I am very coachable, and I work hard. A lot of the challenges pitching coaches have given me I have been able to overcome and work hard enough to achieve those goals.

ED: What about your biggest weakness?
JG: Besides patience, I would say just the fastball. I’m learning to throw a four-seam, and I have been very unconfident with that pitch, and I am trying to gain confidence. We took away the two-seamer, so it’s just getting repetition and [the] muscle memory to throw that pitch.

ED: You had mentioned to me that you had worked really hard this off-season. You lost fifteen pounds, and you added some velocity to your fastball. Was this a personal initiative or was it the organization’s regimen?
JG: They didn’t necessarily want for me to lose so much weight, they just wanted me to come in and burn some body fat [and] gain more muscle. In general, I wanted to lose some weight. I thought it would help me with everything: my endurance, being out there on the mound—especially out there in this heat. I would say it was a little bit more of a personal goal, but it has helped so far, so they are really happy about that.