In Seattle and Chicago, Freddy Garcia was a horse. The righthander started 30-plus games and pitched 200-plus innings year after year after year.
The thing about horses, though, is they'll keep right on running whether they're physically able to or not. In Philadelphia, Garcia hasn't yet proven he is still the pitcher he believes himself to be. And therein lies a little bit of a problem.
Manager Charlie Manuel took Garcia out in the sixth inning of yesterday's 3-2 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers. Garcia had allowed a ground single that barely eluded the gloves of Abraham Nuñez and Jimmy Rollins and issued a pair of walks to load the bases with two outs. Tony Graffanino was due up when Manuel emerged from the dugout.
Since it was Manuel's second visit of the inning, no further discussion was needed. Garcia had to come out. But Garcia was visibly unhappy about the decision, an impression he reinforced after the game.
"It's all about confidence," Garcia said. "They are not confident in me. I was feeling fine, and they took me out."
There are all kinds of threads in this knot. Garcia, 30, had spent his entire career before this in the American League, where pitchers aren't removed as early. There is no pinch-hitting for the pitcher in the land of the DH. But he also has had the confidence that comes from being a hard-throwing, durable, innings-eating monster.
Right now, he's not that guy.
Garcia threw 114 pitches yesterday. Last year, pitching for the White Sox, he went over that number just twice in 33 starts. Both times, he pitched eight full innings.
In 2005, the year the White Sox won the World Series, Garcia went over 114 pitches in two of 33 starts. Once he went seven innings and once he went eight.
See a pattern? He is throwing more pitches earlier because he simply doesn't have the velocity on his fastball that he used to have. He is pitching with more precision, more craft, than he used to. That means more long counts, more fouled-off pitches, more walks and fewer strikeouts.
Throw in the fact that Garcia started the season on the disabled list because of a sore arm and, well, you can see why Manuel and pitching coach Rich Dubee are keeping a close eye on his pitch count.
Garcia had not pitched more than six innings in any of his six starts before yesterday. He came one out from getting that far in this one.
"This year is hard for me," Garcia said. "I'm working really hard. Right now, my goal is to get out of the sixth inning. I'm feeling fine."
For some perspective, Garcia should look at his opponent yesterday. Milwaukee's Ben Sheets also threw 114 pitches. The difference was that Sheets pitched two more innings. He was throwing 95-m.p.h. fastballs. He struck out a season-high eight batters.
That's the kind of pitcher Garcia was just a year or two ago. It's the kind of pitcher you leave in to get out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth inning of a close game.
Of course, then you get into the matter of the Phillies' bullpen. The team's most glaring weakness winds up influencing every decision Manuel makes during a game.
In this case, he brought in Geoff Geary to face Graffanino. That worked, as Graffanino grounded out. Geary pitched a scoreless seventh, but that was all the work he could handle, Manuel said.
"If I leave him out there, I burn him for two days," the manager said.
Fabio Castro started the eighth, gave up what turned out to be the winning run and was gone after getting one out. Clay Condrey finished the eighth. Francisco Rosario pitched a scoreless ninth.
That extra run loomed large after the Phillies scored in the bottom of the eighth. But this is the bullpen that Manuel has to work with. He can't use Geary, Brett Myers and Antonio Alfonseca every day.
"He needs experience," Manuel said of Castro. "You have to let him pitch, see what he can do."
All of this just adds to Garcia's frustration. He sees the rest of the rotation beginning to string quality starts and believes he can and should be doing the same.
"Six innings, two runs," catcher Rod Barajas said. "If he can do that every game, you'd take that."
Garcia is thinking more like seven or eight innings. He's done it reliably in the past. He just hasn't done it here yet. Of course, he can't until he gets the chance. He can win the Phillies' confidence only if they show him some confidence.
"I get in trouble, but I'm good at getting out of trouble, too," Garcia said. "That's why I've won a lot of games."
Straight from the horse's mouth.