Originally posted on Fox Sports Midwest  |  Last updated 2/15/12
ST. LOUIS Left-hander Jaime Garcia doesn't want to sound arrogant or overconfident as the Cardinals prepare to open Spring Training this weekend. But make no mistake about it. Garcia thinks this could be the year he establishes himself as one of the premier lefty starters in baseball. "I don't want to do too much talking, I'd like to do the talking on the field obviously, but I think it could happen," Garcia said. "I'm really excited with how I feel right now and it's all about going out there and executing." Garcia burst onto the scene in his first year as a starter in 2010, going 13-8 with a 2.70 ERA. But the lefty struggled some in year two, posting a similar 13-7 record but a higher 3.56 ERA in 2011. Moved into a more prominent spot in the rotation after Adam Wainwright went down unexpectedly last spring, it was a year of extreme highs and lows for Garcia. The lefty had a four-hit shutout in his first start of the season on April 3 and took a perfect game into the eighth inning against the Brewers on May 6 before eventually finishing with a two-hit shutout. But Garcia suffered the worst start of his young career just four starts later on May 28 in Colorado. Entering the game with a 5-0 record and a 1.93 ERA, Garcia allowed 11 hits and 11 earned runs in just 3 13 innings in a 15-4 loss at Coors Field. Always one to soak up as much knowledge as possible from Chris Carpenter, Wainwright and the other starters, Garcia suffered an unwelcomed but valuable lesson on having to deal with adversity. "I feel it gets to a point where you just have to learn yourself," Garcia said. "You go through the struggles and you are the one to pitch good and bad and you have to be your own coach. Your best coach is yourself and I feel like I'm getting to that point to where I've learned and I know my body a little bit better. "I know what to do, what to expect, and how to work hard and what to do and what not to do, so I think I'm getting to that point to where I can make my own adjustments and obviously listen to the other guys but kind of know what to expect from myself." The most valuable experience Garcia received came in October, when the 25-year-old made five postseason starts including two in the World Series. Garcia posted a 4.21 ERA in 25 23 innings but showed his ability to succeed under pressure. Garcia allowed six hits and three runs in seven strong innings in his postseason debut in Game 3 of the Division Series against the Phillies at Busch Stadium. But he was working on a shutout until a two-out, three-run pinch-hit home run from Ben Francisco erased a scoreless tie and put a negative finish on a stellar day. The lefty was even better in his World Series debut, tossing seven shutout innings on just three hits in Game 2 against the Rangers. Garcia would have earned the win had the Cardinals not blown the save in the ninth inning. His start in Game 6 against the Rangers didn't go as well, allowing two runs on five hits in three innings before he was pulled from the game. But the Cardinals rallied multiple times to complete one of the greatest comebacks in World Series history before winning their 11th World Series title the next night. The experience will surely help Garcia this year. No matter what situation he finds himself in, the pressure will never be as high as it was during the playoffs. "That's going to be huge help," Garcia said. "Obviously it's a little different, the pressure and a lot of things going on but you have to be able to block all that and I felt like I did a pretty good job in the playoffs, just concentrating on pitching. "It's called experience and maturing and that's how you get better, going through stuff like that. I think it's going to be a big help for me." The Cardinals are expecting big things from Garcia in his third year as a starter. But another year removed from surgery, so is he. "I'm just really excited to finally have two full years behind me (after Tommy John surgery)," Garcia said. "Physically this is the best I've ever felt. Every year I feel better but this offseason I've been working really hard and the way I feel and having that playoff experience and having the full seasons and knowing what to expect and feeling great physically, I'm just real excited."
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