D-backs prospect Garcia relishing time in AFL
Reliever honing craft with Salt River after unconventional path to pros
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The D-backs are leaving no stone unturned in their search for pitching help.
They are looking far and wide and even in some domestic locales you might not ordinarily consider.
The team appears to have unearthed a middle-relief gem at the tip of Texas in the Gulf Coast community of Brownsville.
Henry Garcia, a 23-year-old left-hander, recently completed his first season in the Minor Leagues at Class A South Bend and he was invited to pitch in the Arizona Fall League for the Salt River Rafters as a replacement for right-hander Andrew Chafin.
Garcia pitched collegiately at the University of Texas-Brownsville and went undrafted. He pitched for one season in an independent league for the Rio Grande Valley WhiteWings. It was there he was noticed by a D-backs scout, and the club signed him in February.
Garcia went on to post solid numbers at South Bend with a 7-2 record and 2.25 ERA in 35 games, walking 10 and striking out 60 in 63 innings.
After South Bend completed its season, Garcia went to get some work in an Instructional League. He returned home for about five days and got a call from D-backs director of player development Mike Bell, who expressed a desire for Garcia to come to the Fall League.
"I jumped at the opportunity," Garcia said. "I wouldn't say I was nervous. Excited, more the word, for a chance to showcase my talent."
Entering the final few days of the Fall League season, Garcia had a 0-1 record in five games with a 5.40 ERA with two walks and seven strikeouts in five innings. "I have felt very comfortable here. I feel good about the way I have been throwing," the 6-foot-1, 170-pound Garcia said. "I would say I have decent-enough speed, definitely a strike-thrower, and I get a lot of ground balls."
Garcia followed the Houston Astros as a youth, "the [Jeff] Bagwell-[Craig] Biggio era," he said.
He even recalled the year the team rented a left-handed flame-thrower named Randy Johnson for the second half of the season in 1998 when he went 10-1 in 11 starts for the Astros. Johnson later signed as a free agent with the D-backs after that season. When he pitched for Rio Grande Valley, Garcia was hopeful to get picked up by a Major League organization, and the D-backs followed through.
He felt he made a great deal of progress for South Bend in 2013.
"I think I could be considered for almost any kind of [relief] role," he said. "I could come in after the starter and pitch four innings or pitch to only one guy as a lefty specialist."
The curveball has been his best pitch thus far. He also has been working on a change-up.
When he learned he would be coming to the Fall League, his family was excited. He had to explain the premise of the league and that he would be pitching against some of the game's top young players and that he hoped it would help him reach his goal of pitching in the Major Leagues.
"I actually thought I might have a chance to pitch in the Fall League next year, but this year is good, too," he said.
He describes himself as a big family person, and he talks to his father, Henry Sr., on the phone every night to update him on all the news of the day.
"My father has always been a big influence on me," he said.
His father used to attend all his games as a youth, but he has not seen him pitch as a professional.
Garcia hopes that will change very soon.
"It would be cool, awesome," he said.
Don Ketchum is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.