Unexpected return to Detroit Tigers allows Bryan Garcia to display confidence

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The Detroit Tigers planned for Bryan Garcia to pitch in key moments — what manager AJ Hinch refers to as high-leverage innings — out of the bullpen this season.

But those expectations were not met.

"In my opinion, I didn't do anything this season to deserve to still be up here," Garcia, 26, said Saturday. "When they sent me down (May 30), I was upset at myself. Glad to get that reset, kind of like a breath of fresh air, and try to figure it out really quick."

Triple-A Toledo manager Tom Prince summoned Garcia into his office Friday night, explaining the Tigers needed their ex-closer back in the majors. A roster spot opened because Spencer Turnbull's right forearm strain landed him on the 10-day injured list.

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A surprised Garcia gathered his belongings and prepared for an early flight to Chicago, where the Tigers were in the middle of a four-game series with the White Sox. He only pitched one game for the Mud Hens, throwing 1⅓ scoreless innings.

"Just take advantage of every opportunity I get," Garcia said. "I was blessed with this opportunity right now, five days after I got sent down. It's something that nobody expected, especially me. ... Hopefully, I can string together a couple good (outings) and continue that confidence."

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Tigers pitcher Bryan Garcia throws during the ninth inning of the Tigers' 6-4 win on Wednesday, April 14, 2021, in Houston.
Tigers pitcher Bryan Garcia throws during the ninth inning of the Tigers' 6-4 win on Wednesday, April 14, 2021, in Houston.

In Houston 52 days ago, Garcia shut down the Astros in the ninth inning, earning his second of two saves this season, to complete the three-game series sweep from April 12-14 at Minute Maid Park. His performance seemed to be a turning point after a rocky start to the season.

But his lack of consistency continued.

Garcia left the Tigers with no choice. They demoted him to Triple-A Toledo on May 30, telling him to correct his pitching mechanics. He has a 5.30 ERA (15 runs, 11 earned runs), 14 walks and 18 strikeouts in 18⅔ innings across 19 games in 2021.

[ Tigers place Spencer Turnbull on injured list: 'We have no idea' when he will return ]

He finished the 2020 season as the Tigers' closer, boasting a 1.66 ERA, 10 walks and 12 strikeouts in 21⅔ innings.

"It sucks," Garcia said. "We all have expectations of ourselves to pitch well, but when the team kind of expects you to pitch well and be one of their guys in the back end of the bullpen, the guy who pitches in these leverage situations, it sucks when you feel like you're letting them down."

Hinch informed Garcia he was getting sent down to the minor leagues after a win over the New York Yankees to finish a three-game sweep at Comerica Park. By the time Garcia arrived at his home, his frustration turned to hunger.

"Let's figure this out," Garcia remembers telling himself.

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The underlying problem was his confidence, which negatively impacted his mechanics.

Garcia thinks he solved his issues in Toledo by carrying the Mud Hens though the final two outs in the seventh inning and first two outs in the eighth inning Wednesday against Memphis, an affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals. He threw 13 of 21 pitches for strikes.

"It's always been there," Garcia said. "I know how I can pitch, it's just confidence. Going down there was almost hitting the reset button, in a sense. Just going there and focusing on getting better with a clean slate."

"Have confidence, stop thinking so much and just go out there and pitch. When you just go out there and pitch, your muscle memory takes over."

Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Return to Detroit Tigers allows Bryan Garcia to display confidence