ALLENTOWN - Lehigh Valley righthanded reliever Luis Garcia, who was without a baseball job in 2011 and has had two different stints with the Phillies since then, appreciates the chance to apply his craft.

"There is nothing like playing baseball," the 27-year-old Garcia said. "Everything you do [that isn't playing], you feel empty."

After pitching at two levels of single A for the Washington Nationals in 2010, Garcia was out of professional baseball the next year.

"My agent didn't do his job, and I didn't have the contacts to get a contract so I just decided to stop," Garcia said.

So in 2011 he did various odd jobs in his native Dominican Republic. Garcia cut hair, worked for a moving company, and also taught baseball.

"That year, I think of it every day to remind me where I was before," he said.

And where he is now isn't a bad place.

Garcia had a limited 2012 season, appearing in nine games for Newark of the independent Can-Am League.

His career turned around when the Phillies signed him as a minor-league free agent on March 21, 2013.

Garcia enjoyed a meteoric rise, pitching at Clearwater, Reading, and Lehigh Valley before joining the Phillies on July 9. In 24 relief appearances last season with the Phillies he had a 3.73 ERA.

"Everything happened so fast," Garcia recalls. "It was amazing, the best feeling you can have to be up there with veteran guys, and to play with them is awesome."

Garcia, who throws in the mid- to upper-90s, didn't pitch well this spring and was sent down to the minor-league camp after recording a 13.50 ERA in two appearances.

This year with Lehigh Valley entered the weekend 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA, with four saves, 10 strikeouts, and four walks in 11 innings. His WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) was 0.91.

"He has been outstanding," Lehigh Valley manager Dave Brundage said. "He has pounded the strike zone and has been pitching like he wants to go places."

That place is Philadelphia, where Garcia made a cameo appearance this year, pitching one scoreless inning before returning to Lehigh Valley.

Garcia understands it's all about consistency.

"I have worked a lot with my mechanics," Garcia said. "Before, I wasn't consistent with my fastball, and I have to keep working on my mechanics and keeping everything in the right place."

Garcia, on the Phillies' 40-man roster, is among many relievers at Lehigh Valley with major-league experience.

"I think he will help us in the big leagues," said Joe Jordan, the Phillies director of player development. "He has major-league stuff, and it's all about gaining consistency."

Garcia, who originally signed as an amateur free agent with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2004, often gets kidded about his work as a barber. The scouting report is that he was good with the razor and scissors, but he doesn't cut his teammates hair.

"I can do a pretty good cut," he said, smiling.

He'd rather showcase his cutter, something he hopes to do some day as a permanent reliever with the Phillies.