LOS ANGELES -- Freddy Garcia will take the mound for the Atlanta Braves on Monday in Game 4 of the National League Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers with 50,000-plus fans in the seats at Dodger Stadium and millions watching on national television.
Just six weeks ago, his surroundings were much different.
Garcia was in Lawrenceville, Ga., on Aug. 26, pitching for the Gwinnett Braves, the Braves' Triple-A affiliate, and things didn't go well. He lasted just 3 2/3 innings and gave up eight runs on seven hits and five walks in a 13-1 loss to Norfolk, a team for which he made 13 starts earlier this year. Garcia joined Atlanta's big league club soon after and pitched well, going 1-2 with a 1.65 ERA in six appearances, including three starts.
The 37-year-old veteran is completing a whirlwind season. A one-time power pitcher who had to reinvent himself on the mound following shoulder surgery in 2007, Garcia signed with the Padres before the season but was released near the end of spring training. He hooked up with the Orioles and bounced back and forth between the major league club and the Norfolk before the Orioles traded him to Atlanta for cash considerations on Aug. 23.
Now he's here in the spotlight.
"It wasn't that easy, man," Garcia said Sunday. "It's been hard for me, but harder for my family. It's being away from my family, my kids. But I'm here now and I just can't wait until (Monday) and pitch the game."
Garcia has plenty of postseason experience. He made a total of 10 starts with the Seattle Mariners, Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees, going 6-3 with a 3.28 ERA. Garcia threw seven shutout innings in his only World Series start, a victory in 2005 with the White Sox.
"I've been in the playoffs a couple times, so I guess it makes it a little easier," he said. "But I've got to face a powerful team, powerful lineup. I just have to go out there and pitch the way I've been pitching."
Ricky Nolasco was penciled in as the Dodgers' scheduled starter for Game 4, but leading up to Game 3, manager Don Mattingly would not rule out starting Clayton Kershaw on three days' rest if the Dodgers were to lose Game 3 and fall behind in the series. The uncertainty of the situation did not bother Nolasco.
"This isn't about me," he said. "I'll be here and ready to take the ball whenever they ask me to pitch."
Mattingly and Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez used the same starting lineups (except for the pitcher's spot) in each of the first three of games of the NLDS.