After Josh Stinson and Zach Britton failed in their recent bids to secure the Orioles’ fifth starter spot, veteran right-hander Freddy Garcia is the next up for an opportunity Saturday in Anaheim.
As expected, the Orioles selected the contract of the 15-year veteran to make Saturday’s start against the Los Angeles Angels and designated right-handed pitcher Zach Clark for assignment to make room on the 25-man and 40-man rosters. The Orioles had recalled Clark to provide an extra arm in their overworked bullpen after Britton was ineffective in Monday’s start in Seattle and was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk.
Signed to a minor-league deal only days before the start of the season, Garcia has made five starts for the Tides and sports a 4-0 record with a 2.67 earned run average spanning 33 2/3 innings. He has struck out 21 and walked only two while surrendering 31 hits over those starts.
He will wear No. 38.
After learning earlier this week that Garcia had agreed to extend his opt-out clause from five minor-league starts to May 14, it became clear the Orioles were seriously considering the two-time All-Star pitcher for a promotion. Garcia has completed eight innings in each of his last starts and pitched on Sunday, allowing two earned runs and striking out five in a win over Toledo.
Garcia spent the last two seasons with the New York Yankees, making 42 starts and going 19-14 with a 4.29 ERA over that time. However, the native Venezuelan struggled in the Bronx last season with a 5.20 ERA and was sent to the bullpen at two different points. He didn’t pitch in the postseason for the Yankees.
In his career, Garcia has spent time with Seattle (1999-2004), the Chicago White Sox (2004-2006 and 2009-2010), Philadelphia (2007), Detroit (2008), and the Yankees (2011-12). His 152 career victories rank ninth among active pitchers, and he has the most wins for any Venezuelan-born pitcher in baseball history. He has gone 6-3 with a 3.28 ERA in 10 career postseason starts, including seven shutout innings in clinching Game 4 of the 2005 World Series for the White Sox.
It remains to be seen whether Garcia’s impressive numbers at Norfolk will translate to major league success, so the Orioles hope he can provide much-needed innings on Saturday as they wrap up an 11-game West Coast trip. It’s unknown whether the club will provide the right-hander a longer leash than provided to Stinson or Britton, but the club will continue to monitor what’s happening at Triple A.
Should Garcia falter, right-handers Steve Johnson and Jair Jurrjens would figure to be the next pitchers deserving of an opportunity for the spot originally held by Jake Arrieta at the start of the season. Johnson was activated from the 15-day disabled list earlier this week after making two rehab starts while Jurrjens has a 3-1 record with a 2.56 ERA in six starts for the Tides. Jurrjens has his own opt-out clause that allows him to become a free agent should he not be in Baltimore by June 15.
The club could also look to Rule 5 selection T.J. McFarland, who has pitched well out of the bullpen in a long-relief role so far this season.
Clark, a UMBC product, appeared in one game for the Orioles, making his major league debut in Seattle on Wednesday. The 29-year-old allowed three earned runs in 1 2/3 innings and would figure to have a good chance of passing through waivers and being outrighted to Norfolk.
In other roster news, catcher Luis Exposito has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple A.