Why Detroit Tigers demoted reliever Bryan Garcia to Triple-A Toledo

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Detroit Tigers reliever Bryan Garcia was the team's closer when the 2020 season ended.

Once manager AJ Hinch was hired, defined roles were thrown away. He instead focuses on high-leverage situations, in which Gregory Soto, Michael Fulmer and Jose Cisnero have shined recently to help the bullpen to a 1.94 ERA since May 16.

Garcia, 26, has worked his way out of pitching in key moments because of poor results. On Sunday, the Tigers demoted him to Triple-A Toledo. Hinch asked Garcia to clean up his delivery and improve the command of his pitches.

"He was fighting a little bit of everything," Hinch said Monday. "We've got to get him right. ... He usually escaped a lot of his outings, but it felt like an escape more than he was in control of the moment."

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Tigers pitcher Bryan Garcia throws against the Cubs during the seventh inning of the Tigers' 4-2 loss on Friday, May 14, 2021, at Comerica Park.
Tigers pitcher Bryan Garcia throws against the Cubs during the seventh inning of the Tigers' 4-2 loss on Friday, May 14, 2021, at Comerica Park.

Last season, Garcia posted a 1.66 ERA with 10 walks and 12 strikeouts in 21⅔ innings. This season, Garcia has pitched 18⅔ innings across 19 games. He has a 5.30 ERA, 14 walks and 18 strikeouts, with a 1.661 WHIP.

Garcia allowed two runs without escaping the eighth inning Sunday against the New York Yankees. The two runs scored on two hits and one walk. After watching him struggle through 22 pitches, Hinch went to Fulmer to complete the eighth and ninth innings.

During Garcia's 10 outings in May, he walked seven batters in nine innings, allowing nine runs (five earned) with nine strikeouts. He threw 57% of his 185 pitches for strikes in May, and 58% of his 375 pitches for strikes across the entire 2021 campaign.

"We've got to sync him up to be a more consistent strike thrower," Hinch said. "The reports last season were that he could really hit a spot at any given time. Anything that you wanted him to do with the fastball and the slider, he could do it, especially glove side down and away.

"We didn't see that in spring. He makes the team, kind of a photo finish on who made the team at the end of spring. And then we watch the first month — some good, some bad and some in the middle."

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Detroit Tigers pitcher Bryan Garcia celebrates a 5-2 win over the Cleveland Indians with catcher Wilson Ramos at Comerica Park on April 3, 2021.
Detroit Tigers pitcher Bryan Garcia celebrates a 5-2 win over the Cleveland Indians with catcher Wilson Ramos at Comerica Park on April 3, 2021.

To replace Garcia, the Tigers picked 23-year-old righty Rony Garcia. He started games for Triple-A Toledo this season but is slated to work in the bullpen for the Tigers. If Rony Garcia pitches well, Hinch said he plans to keep him in the big leagues.

Meanwhile, Bryan Garcia — unrelated to Rony — needs to pitch well for the Mud Hens to get another opportunity with the Tigers.

"Coming into the season, there was a lot of talk of him being a primary reliever in the back end in some capacity, given his command and control and all the things that he can bring positively," Hinch said. "We just haven't seen that. And he admitted that. He's not naive to that. He's a realist.

"It's tough for him to go down and have to figure it out in Triple-A, but that's necessary at this point."

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: Why Detroit Tigers demoted reliever Bryan Garcia to Triple-A Toledo