Freddy Garcia’s 6’4′, 235-pound body did not give any indication of the easygoing personality that lay underneath. Nor did it give an indication of the finesse required to hit corners with a fastball, the ability to change speeds, or the deception involved in changing from a four-seam grip to a curveball grip during his windup. Since coming to the Mariners with John Halama and Carlos Guillen in the deal that sent Randy Johnson to the Astros, Garcia used his big body and his talent to win 26 games over his first two seasons and to lower his ERA each year.
In the midst of a strong rookie season, Garcia began to run out of gas late in games, posting a 2.45 ERA in the first and second innings, ascending to 4.50 by the third inning, and soaring to 6.50 by the fifth. Manager Lou Piniella, investigating why his budding ace seemed to lose his stuff, learned the following: “In his entire career in the minors, he had never eaten breakfast the day he pitched.” Piniella asked Garcia to change his pre-game routine; before a start against the Padres, Garcia chowed down on pancakes, eggs, ham, and bacon, and went on to a powerhouse four-hit, eight-inning victory.
As a youth in Venezuela, Garcia was never more than a lackluster student, though he was a star basketball and baseball before being discovered by Houston Astros scout Carl Reiner. The Astros brought him to their baseball academy, where Garcia moved from the infield to the pitcher’s mound.