He took the mound Friday as the starter for Estrellas de Oriente in the Dominican Winter League, tossing two scoreless innings with no walks and three strikeouts. He threw 21 of 28 pitches for strikes. A two-out double in the second inning was his only blemish.
The outing marked Garcia’s career debut in the winter leagues.
The 24-year-old, facing the Toros del Este, struck out three batters in the second frame: Alejandro Mejia, Hamlet Marte and Malquin Canelo. Marte spent most of 2021 with Triple-A Oklahoma City for the Los Angeles Dodgers, while Canelo played for Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk in the Baltimore Orioles’ farm system.
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Garcia, a 2019 Rule 5 draft pick from the New York Yankees, has a career 7.30 ERA with 11 walks and 16 strikeouts over 24⅔ innings in 17 games (two starts) for the Tigers. He has appeared in parts of two MLB seasons.
He posted a 3.20 ERA with 10 walks and 24 strikeouts in 19⅔ innings (four starts) for Triple-A Toledo in 2021, then a 2.45 ERA with two walks and two strikeouts in 3⅔ innings out of the bullpen for the Tigers before his injury.
On June 10, Garcia struggled to walk off the field — even with help from two trainers — during warmups at Comerica Park. He landed on the injured list with a left knee sprain, which required season-ending surgery.
“He was playing catch and buckled his knee,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said June 10. “He’s got meniscus issues. He’s going to see a couple doctors. It doesn’t look good. He was in a lot of pain. … I feel bad for Rony. It looks like it’s going to be a rough one.”
If Garcia stays healthy, he will contribute in the majors in 2022.
Reyes keeps slugging
Outfielder Victor Reyes crushed a three-run home run Sunday for Caribes de Anzoategui in the Venezuelan Winter League. He homered to center off 25-year-old left-hander reliever Eugenio Palma (Tiburones de La Guaira) in the sixth inning.
Reyes, 27, is hitting .324 (12-for-37) with two doubles, one triple, four homers, 18 RBIs, five walks and six strikeouts in 10 games. He has played all 10 games as his team’s right fielder but can handle all three outfield positions.
In 2021, Reyes hit .258 for the Tigers with 10 doubles, four triples, five home runs, 22 RBIs, eight walks and 55 strikeouts in 76 games. His season ended Sept. 26, when he landed on the injured list with a right groin strain.
Reyes, a 2017 Rule 5 draft pick, surged in the second half of the season, hitting .325 with four homers and 18 RBIs in his final 49 games. The Tigers tendered him a contract as part of the salary arbitration process; MLB Trade Rumors projects he will receive $1.3 million for the upcoming season.
He has an opportunity to win a spot on the 2022 Opening Day roster.
Right-hander Elvin Rodriguez hadn’t pitched since Oct. 29 due to a “tiny issue, health-wise,” but the 23-year-old — added to the Tigers’ 40-man roster in November — returned to the mound Dec. 14 for Tigres del Licey in the Dominican Winter League.
Rodriguez entered out of the bullpen in the sixth inning and kept Gigantes del Cibao off the scoreboard. The 23-year-old faced the minimum six batters in his two scoreless innings and racked up two strikeouts.
All six batters he retired boast MLB experience: Webster Rivas (San Diego Padres), Luis Marte (Miami Marlins), Jose Siri (Houston Astros), Jordany Valdespin (MLB from 2012-15), Hanser Alberto (MLB from 2015-16, 2018-21) and Marcell Ozuna (Atlanta Braves).
Rodriguez struck out Rivas and Valdespin.
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For the Tigres del Licey this offseason, Rodriguez has a 3.86 ERA, one walk and six strikeouts over 4⅔ innings in two games (one start). The 6-foot-3 righty, by the way, has started 98 of his 104 games in his six-year minor-league career.
The Tigers, though, could use him out of the bullpen in 2022.
Rodriguez spent most of this past season in Double-A Erie, logging a 5.83 ERA with 29 walks and 80 strikeouts over 75⅔ innings in 18 starts. He tossed two scoreless innings in one relief appearance for Triple-A Toledo, registering three strikeouts.
COVID halts Jimenez’s success
Right-handed reliever Joe Jimenez was pitching his best baseball in years for Gigantes de Carolina when the Puerto Rican Winter League paused due to a COVID-19 outbreak. More than 39 players, coaches and executives tested positive.
Games have been postponed since Dec. 14. Expect an update from the Puerto Rican Winter League on Tuesday. Jimenez has thrown 3⅓ scoreless innings with zero walks, five strikeouts and three saves in his three games.
Pitching 52 games in 2021 for the Tigers, Jimenez recorded a 5.93 ERA with 35 walks and 57 strikeouts in 45⅓ innings. Once baseball returns to Puerto Rico, continued success will help Jimenez in his pursuit of making Detroit’s Opening Day roster.
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But Jimenez isn’t the only Tiger impacted by the shutdown.
Right-handed relievers Nivaldo Rodriguez (Criollos de Caguas) and Angel Reyes (Gigantes de Carolina) are unable to compete because of the situation. It’s unclear if any of the three Tigers tested positive for COVID-19 in Puerto Rico.
Rodriguez, 24, has tossed 4⅔ scoreless innings with three walks and eight strikeouts in two games (one start). Reyes, also 24, has a 10.80 ERA with seven walks and six strikeouts over 6⅔ innings in eight outings.
• Infielder Isaac Paredes is playing for Venados de Mazatlan in the Mexican Pacific Winter League. The 22-year-old is hitting .292 (40-for-137) with six doubles, four home runs, 23 RBIs, 37 walks and 19 strikeouts in 40 games, spending 14 of them at third base and the others as the designated hitter. He hasn’t homered since Dec. 4. (He won the Mexican league’s batting title last winter, hitting .379 with four homers in 42 games.)
In 2021, Paredes played 23 games for the Tigers and 72 games for Triple-A Toledo. He hit .208 in the majors with one home run, five RBIs, 10 walks and 11 strikeouts. For the Mud Hens, he hit .265 with 11 homers, 42 RBIs, 56 walks and 47 strikeouts. Paredes will compete for a utility infielder spot on the Opening Day roster.
• Left-handed reliever Miguel Del Pozo is pitching for Gigantes del Cibao in the Dominican Winter League. The 29-year-old owns a 1.50 ERA with six walks and seven strikeouts over six innings in seven relief outings. A member of the Tigers’ 40-man roster, Del Pozo will contend for a bullpen role with the big-league club in spring training. He posted a 3.38 ERA with two walks and four strikeouts for the Tigers in 2021, throwing 5⅓ innings over five games. He also had a 2.82 ERA with 16 walks and 54 strikeouts across 38⅓ innings in 34 games for Toledo.