Q&A with Christian Garcia

Garcia Has a Nasty Curveball

RHP Christian Garcia was the Yankees' third round pick in the 2004 draft out of high school. Considered one of the nation's top catching prospects, Garcia has one of the higest ceilings among the Yankees' pitching prospects. We caught up with Christian to get his thoughts on himself and his fellow Yankees' prospects.

PinstripesPlus: You were a highly touted catcher coming up in high school. Our first question is would you rather be a catcher than a pitcher? Also, tell us a little bit about your skills as a catcher and a hitter.

Christian Garcia: Coming up it was always between me and (Alex) Garabedian as to who was ranked #1 or #2 at catcher in high school. Sometimes I was ranked #1 and he was #2 and sometimes he was ranked first. I think I was ranked #1 at catcher for like two months. The scouts compared me to Ben Davis and A.J. Pierzynski because I was tall, lanky, and a switch-hitter. I was also told that I could have gone in the fourth or fifth round in the draft as a catcher. My senior year of high school I hit something like .420 with 8 home runs and about 45 RBI. I'd rather be a catcher because you get to play everyday rather than sitting on the bench. I hate sitting on the bench. I realized I was going to make it to the Majors quicker as a pitcher but if I could have made it just as quickly as a catcher, my preference would have been to play there.

PinstripesPlus: Which team were you a fan of growing up and who were your favorite players?

Garcia: I had two favorite teams growing up, one in the American League and one in the National League. I rooted for the Yankees in the AL and the Marlins in the NL. Coming from the Miami area, I rooted for the Marlins when they played each other in the World Series. As far as my favorite players, I had two. Since I was both a pitcher and a catcher, my favorite players were Pudge Rodriguez and Roger Clemens.

PinstripesPlus: What were your thoughts on being drafted by the Yankees?

Garcia: Actually, I was a little disappointed I was drafted so low. I am sure it was due to my inexperience as a pitcher. I can tell you that if any other team had drafted me as low, I wouldn't have signed. I had signed a letter of intent with the University of South Carolina and would have gone to college if it was anybody else but the Yankees.

PinstripesPlus: You wouldn't have signed if the Marlins had drafted you in the same spot even though you rooted for them over the Yanks?

Garcia: (Laughing) No, I probably wouldn't have. Just the Yankees.

PinstripesPlus: Give us a little scouting report on yourself as a pitcher. What pitches do you throw and at what speeds?

Garcia: I throw a fastball, curveball, and changeup. My fastball is somewhere between 92-95 MPH and I got it as high as 97 MPH in the (GCL) Championship game. My curveball is between 81-84 MPH and my changeup is probably around 84-85 MPH. I have a splitter that I really like but the Yankees don't want me to throw it right now. Marc Newman told me to put it in my back pocket for now and maybe I can bring it back down the road. The Yankees are a big believer in featuring your changeup. Nardi Contreras is an excellent pitching coach and he really believes in the changeup. He wants our other pitches to feed off of our changeup.

PinstripesPlus: Tell us a little bit about your curveball. Steven White described it as one of the nastiest pitches he's ever seen!

Garcia: My curveball is more of a knuckle curveball. When I was a young kid, like 11 or 12 or something, I saw Mike Mussina pitch when he was with the Orioles and I noticed the way he gripped the ball on the laces with his knuckles. I just started messing around with that grip. Whenever I was just sitting around on my couch or whatever, I would practice gripping the ball the same way Mussina did. I would mess around on the mound and started throwing my curveball that same way. Some pitchers have tried it and say it hurts too much, but I've been doing it for so long it comes naturally. I just grip the ball with my knuckles on the laces and throw it like I would my fastball. I just snap my wrist when I release it. I can throw it as a 12-6 curve and throw it for strikes. For strike three, I throw it right in front of home plate and it slurves. I throw that one the most. I have a ton of confidence with my curveball. I'll throw it 3-2 with the bases loaded. It doesn't matter to me.

PinstripesPlus: What do you think you need to work on to make it to that next level?

Garcia: (Laughing). Lots of stuff. I need to work on my control, locating my pitches better. I also need to work on my mechanics to make them more consistent. That just comes with experience and repetition. I think I also need to work on my circle changeup more. I have a really good fastball and curveball and right now and I know I can get batters out with those two pitches. A great changeup is only going to help me move quicker, especially as I reach the higher levels.

PinstripesPlus: Have the Yankees given you any indication where you might start next season? What are your immediate goals?

Garcia: I've been told I'll most likely start in (Charleston) South Carolina, or even possibly Tampa. My goal is to end next season in Tampa, begin 2006 in AA and finish the season in AAA, and be put on the 40-man roster by some time in 2007, possibly even reaching the Majors.

PinstripesPlus: Okay, we'd like to get your thoughts on some of your fellow GCL teammates. Give us a scouting report on Jason Stephens.

Garcia: Jason's great. He's more of a pitcher than a thrower. His fastball is around 90-91 MPH. He throws a fastball, changeup, curveball. He has an excellent 12-6 curveball that's around 76 MPH and he throws it for strikes. Actually, (laughing) all he does is throws strikes. He throws very few balls and always keeps his pitch counts low. There was one start this past year where he pitched six innings and he only threw four balls the entire game! He had something like 60 strikes in that game. It was incredible. I think he's a good bet to be in Charleston next year.

PinstripesPlus: What do you think of Maximo Nelson? Can you give us a little scouting report on him?

Garcia: He throws a fastball, curveball, changeup. I think he throws a slider too but it's not something we're supposed to be throwing right now. He has an excellent fastball, somewhere right around 94 MPH. His curveball is around 78-80 MPH and he throws a circle changeup. Man, he's got a lot going for him. He's going to be real good and I think he'll be in Charleston next year too.

PinstripesPlus: Of all the relief pitchers on your team last year, who were you most impressed with? Who do you think has the highest upside as a closer down the road?

Garcia: Definitely (Jose) Tadeo. He just has nasty, filthy stuff. He has a cutter that is Mariano Rivera-like. I mean, it's really filthy! He throws his fastball around 92 MPH and just throws strikes. What's weird is he's able to throw his cutter more for strikes than his fastball. That's how good his cutter is. His body language and demeanor on the mound is that of a closer. He should be in Charleston next year as well, probably as the closer.

PinstripesPlus: Which of your fellow teammates, among the positional players, were you most impressed with last year?

Garcia: Wow, I can't pick just one. I'd say Poterson, Phillips, Holmann, and definitely Vechionacci.

PinstripesPlus: Well lets take those one at a time. What are your thoughts on Jonathan Poterson?

Garcia: Poterson has more power potential than anybody I've ever seen. People look at his batting average last year and don't realize that he was hitting something like .060 mid-way through the season. Poterson's just a hitter. You can tell that by how much improved down the stretch. He was our best hitter at the end of the season. He's a great hitter to all fields and he'll put up some huge power numbers. I don't think he's going to be a catcher. He's more of an outfielder. He called me the other day and was telling me that the Yankees haven't given him any sort of idea of their plans for him this year. That tells me he's not going to catch because if he was they would have told him to start working out and get ready to catch this year. As a hitter, he reminds me of Chipper Jones, especially from the left side of the plate. He's going to be great.

PinstripesPlus: What about Nathan Phillips?

Garcia: He played shortstop for us most of the year last season, but I see him more as a third baseman. He's a good hitter that will turn into a power hitter. He's good at shortstop, but I think he can be a really good third baseman. He's a Cal Ripken type at third.

PinstripesPlus: What are your impressions of Mario Holmann?

Garcia: He's a human highlight film defensively. Holmann's a spunky player with incredible speed. He's got the chance to be a great hitter too. I'd say he's a Jose Vidro hitter with Tony Womack speed with tremendous potential. When he gets to the Majors, he'll be on Sportscenter every night!

PinstripesPlus: OK, thoughts on Marcos Vechionacci?

Garcia: He's simply going to be a superstar. He's the best defensive third baseman I've ever seen.

PinstripesPlus: Not to interrupt you, but we've been told he's more of a shortstop and will most likely be playing shortstop in Charleston next season?

Garcia: I heard that too. Put it this way, I don't see any weaknesses at third base. When I'm pitching, I'd rather have "Nacci" at third base. He's just so good there. I see him more as a third baseman. He's an incredible hitter too. He's the type of hitter that will hit for a really high average and he's just so young, he's going to develop into a great power hitter too. He was great for us at the beginning of the season and he was great at the end of the year. He just doesn't ever slow down. "Nacci" is a special player!

PinstripesPlus.com would like to thank Christian Garcia for taking the time to answer our questions. Be sure to check back with us in the coming years and we'll be checking in with Christian from time to time.

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