CLEARWATER, Fla. - Sirens go off any time a pitcher comes down with a sore arm shortly after being traded.
The Phillies, however, say they don't believe Freddy Garcia was damaged goods when he came over from the Chicago White Sox in December.
"We did our due diligence on his health," assistant general manager Ruben Amaro said yesterday, the morning after Garcia was shut down with right-biceps tenderness. "We feel he was a healthy enough player that it was important to make the move."
Garcia, 30, left Wednesday night's game against Toronto after one inning. His fastball barely hit 85 m.p.h., and he was racked for three runs. Yesterday, the pitcher pointed to the area where his biceps connects to his shoulder and said he was feeling soreness in the area.
Garcia said that he was not worried and that he hoped to be ready by the team's April 2 season opener, but it is difficult to imagine that he will not begin the season on the disabled list. He has shown below-average velocity on his fastball all spring, and this shutdown - he'll miss at least his next start - probably means he'll need more time to get ready for the season.
"We can't crystal-ball it," Amaro said.
If Garcia can't open the season, the Phillies will slide Jon Lieber into the rotation. Lieber, a starter for the Phils the last two seasons, had been sent to the bullpen on Wednesday, hours before Garcia suffered his setback.
Lieber had a conversation on the field with manager Charlie Manuel yesterday morning, but he said he had not been told anything.
"I think they're waiting to see how Freddy feels," Lieber said. "I think he'll be fine."
Amaro said he received an encouraging report from Steven Cohen, a team physician who examined Garcia yesterday and isolated the problem as biceps tenderness. Garcia did not have a magnetic resonance imaging exam.
"There's no need for an MRI right now," Amaro said. "That might change."
Michael Ciccotti, the team's lead physician, will examine Garcia in Clearwater tomorrow.
"He'll miss his next turn for sure," Manuel said. "After that, we'll wait and see how it goes."
The Phillies acquired Garcia for young pitchers Gavin Floyd and Gio Gonzalez on Dec. 6. The acquisition fueled postseason hopes in Philadelphia, but Garcia has not looked like a pitcher with 116 career wins this spring. His fastball, which in earlier seasons hummed around 93 m.p.h., has been lazy. At least now there appears to be a reason for that.
Several scouts who have watched Garcia this spring have remarked that his velocity was down late last season. The Phillies were aware of Garcia's reduced velocity but were not wary of making the trade.
"His September numbers were extraordinary," Amaro said.
Garcia went 17-9 with a 4.53 ERA for the White Sox last season and finished the season 4-0 with a 1.59 ERA in his final four starts.
It wasn't just that finish that gave the Phils confidence in making the deal. Amaro said the Phillies spoke with White Sox medical personnel about Garcia and reviewed the pitcher's health records. The Phillies did not order an MRI or physical exam before the deal.
"We didn't think it was necessary," Amaro said. "We consulted with their medical people, and nothing precluded us from making the deal, especially not with the comfort level we had with [White Sox general manager] Kenny Williams.
"With trades, it's buyer beware. It always has been. We felt comfortable enough with the information gathered from their medical people."
Amaro was asked whether Garcia ever had a similar problem with the White Sox.
"I don't know that I'm at liberty to say that," he said, citing health-privacy laws.
Garcia said he never had had a problem like this before. However, according to media reports in Chicago, he experienced shoulder stiffness during spring training last year but was never shut down.
Earlier this spring, Garcia did admit to having a tired arm last season. He pointed to the previous season as the reason for that. In 2005, he pitched 228 innings during the regular season and 21 in the postseason.
"This might be normal wear and tear," Amaro said.
Regardless of what it is, Freddy Garcia is feeling pain in his pitching arm, and he has not even made his first official start for the Phillies yet. That's never good news.