Perhaps no other pitcher in Major League Baseball had the potential to be affected by the new rules more than Luis Garcia of the Houston Astros, whose quirky dance step-like windup garnered a fair amount of attention last season as Houston became World Champions for the second time since 2017.
It wasn’t just Astros fans wondering if Garcia could adapt, but the baseball world at large was curious if last year’s 15-game winner would be the same in 2023.
If Garcia’s first spring training appearance of the season is any indication, he’ll be just fine.
Garcia threw a pair of shutout innings, striking out four, walking no one, and giving up a single hit in Houston’s 8-4 win over the Mets in Port St. Lucie, Florida.
Garcia threw 70% strikes (21/30) facing seven Met batters, reaching as high as 95.9 mph on his four-seam fastball that Mark Canha whiffed on to end the bottom of the second inning.
The sample size is tiny, as Garcia threw the four-seamer 42% of the time in 2022, but the velocity was up a tick from the 94.0 mph the native of Venezuela averaged last season.
Garcia fired 10 four-seam fastballs in the outing and nine went for strikes, five called.
Garcia was slightly less successful in getting his other pitches (a changeup, curveball, cutter and slider) over (12 strikes on 20 combined pitches), but overall was sharp in his initial appearance with his new windup.
The once-starting pitching-rich defending World Series Champions find themselves in a different position headed into 2023 with Justin Verlander now a New York Met and Lance McCullers, Jr. on the shelf for the time being.
The Houston Astros will depend on Luis Garcia more in 2023
Garcia has started 28 regular-season games in each of the last two seasons, compiling a 26-16 record and throwing over 155 innings each season and recording a 3.60 ERA combined.
Despite the 15 wins, Garcia only played a small part in the Astros postseason run, getting the win in relief with 5.0 masterful innings in Game 3 of the of the ALDS, not pitching in the ALCS against the Yankees and only seeing 0.2 innings in the World Series.
With Verlander in Flushing and McCullers, Jr. a question mark, the Astros will need Garcia to continue to be the effective starter and grow into a postseason presence as they look to defend their title.