The Astros have relied on their alternate training site perhaps more than any team in baseball. Injuries to Justin Verlander, Roberto Osuna, Chris Devenski, Brad Peacock, Jose Urquidy and Austin Pruitt paved the way for rookies to debut and the organization’s pitching development prowess to project on a national stage.
The few arms who remain in Corpus Christi, Texas, are on call for the next opportunity, one that may arrive now or in 2021. Some are the “parking garage guys”—pitchers who used a portable mound to throw inside a West Palm Beach, Fla., parking garage during baseball’s shutdown.
Count 23-year-old righthander Luis Garcia among them. He’s never thrown above high Class A, but he’s providing rotation depth at Houston’s alternate site. Assistant general manager Pete Putila said the club has stretched out Garcia longer than some of its other pitchers to afford the big league club more flexibility in the event of an emergency.
Signed out of Venezuela for $20,000 in 2017, the 6-foot-1, 244-pound Garcia burst onto the scene with increased velocity during the 2019 season. He struck out 168 hitters in 108.2 innings between the Class A levels.
His four-seam fastball hovers around 93-95 mph and can touch 98. Garcia commands his changeup better than his two other secondary pitches, but Putila said his slider may have “more upside” than the changeup. Garcia can mix in a 12-to-6 curveball sparingly and, more recently, has started throwing a harder slider between 85-88 mph.
“The changeup and slider is a very east-west attack, with both of them moving a bunch in completely opposite directions,” Putila said. “It gives the hitters fits in terms of whether to cheat to one side of the plate or not.”
Including Garcia, who owns a 1.17 career WHIP, in the player pool allowed him to face a more experienced group of hitters who won’t swing freely.
“Really just trying to use that experience to stay competitive with all his pitches, so he’s not pitching behind in the count,” Putila said.
— The Astros’ No. 1 overall prospect, righthander Forrest Whitley, remains shut down with what general manager James Click described as a forearm strain. Whitley has responded well to treatment, according to Click, but a timetable for his return is unclear.
— Houston optioned promising righthander Bryan Abreu to the alternate site following an ugly start to his major league season. Abreu faced 20 hitters, walked seven and hit two others. Manager Dusty Baker said Abreu reported to summer camp overweight and was “thinking too much” on the mound.