February 8, 2013
Friday, February 8
Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik was a busy man on Thursday: Over a span of only a few hours, he added free agent Joe Saunders to his rotation and ensured that Felix Hernandez would be fronting it for the rest of the decade. The former move was a one-year deal, the latter a seven-year, $175 million blockbuster—and both of them could impact the market for teams that still have work to do this spring. Today’s Roundup features two players who stand to benefit.
Multiple teams kicking the tires on Jon Garland
Getting creative means leaving no stone unturned, and that is why even pitchers who did not throw a single professional inning in 2012 are now drawing a crowd. Garland, who last pitched for the Dodgers in 2011, needed extensive shoulder surgery that July, when Dr. Neal ElAttrache performed a debridement procedure and repaired his labrum and rotator cuff. The right-hander inked a minor-league pact with the Indians the following January, but he was not healthy enough to pass the team’s physical and decided to sit out the year after the contract was nullified.
That may have been a shrewd medical decision by Garland, because ESPN’s Jason Churchill heard from sources on Thursday that the 33-year-old “was decent to pretty darned good” in his audition earlier this week. As a result, Garland is commanding attention from “multiple clubs,” and though there are no indications that a deal with any of them is close, he should have no trouble earning at least a non-roster invitation to camp.
A reliable, if middling, workhorse for the first 10-plus years of his major-league career, Garland made 321 starts before his first trip to the disabled list. That three-week stint was necessitated by an oblique strain that he suffered during spring training two years ago. Little did he and the Dodgers—who signed him to a one-year, $5 million hitch on November 26, 2010—know that a much more serious injury was just around the corner.
There were obvious signs, not long after Garland returned to the mound on April 15, 2011, that something was amiss. His fastball velocity, previously around 91 mph, was down to 89 mph, and his once-stellar control at times abandoned him entirely. Garland had never been a strikeout pitcher, with a career K:PA rate of just 12.6 percent, but when his fastball sat in the low 90s, his sharpest off-speed pitch, a changeup, had enabled him to avoid incurring the wrath of left-handed hitters. That all changed in 2011, when his flagging heater diminished the effectiveness of his changeup, allowing opposing lefties to tee-off to the tune of a .358 TAv. Nine starts later, Garland pulled the plug on his season and went under the knife for the first time in his career.