No kid grows up dreaming of being a lefty specialist. The dream is to be a starter, an ace. Pitching 6 or 7 innings mowing down hitters, not coming in to throw 4 pitches to a lefty and your job is done. Starters are the guys who make the $100 million contracts, on the cover of magaziens and have their names on the backs of school children everywhere. Lefty specialists are the unsung heros who never get enough credit, but are an easy target for the blame.
For Frank Garces, he was living the dream. The Padres signed him as a starter and he was a starter all the way through A-ball. Then he hit a wall. In the highest level of A-ball, he posted a 5.67 ERA in 26 starts in 2013. He was about to turn 24-years-old still stuck in A-ball and struggling, Garces didn’t show a ton of promise. Where did a guy like him belong?
An astute member of the Padres organization noticed something to help him find his place. While his numbers looked terrible on the outside, looking at his lefty/righty splits you could see there was something there. Right-handers were killing Garces, hitting .301 off of him, but he was able to hold lefties to a .197 batting average off of him. His problem was obvious, he couldn’t get righties out, so how can that be solved? Simple. Don’t let him face righties.
That’s exactly what the Padres decided to do. The more advanced right-handers were too much of a challenge for Garces, but it looked like he could lefties out at any level. To start off the 2014 campaign he even received a promotion to Double-A San Antonio, even without making any relief appearances in over 2 years. Now in a new role, at a new level, how would he respond? By dominating lefties like always. This year at Double-A, lefties have hit .123 off of him. He’s even held righties at bay in his brand new role, keeping them at a .243 batting average on the year. Overall in 46 appearances, Garces has a 2.07 ERA in Double-A, and that was enough to get him a shot in the big leagues.
Now he gets to see if the success he’s had as a reliever is a skill he can carry with him into the higher levels. His major league debut was a 1-2-3 inning against the Dodgers, so far so good for Garces.
Right now we can only hope that his minor league success will carry over, but for now it looks like Garces made the right choice.