Freddy Garcia to start ALDS Game 3

Updated: September 30, 2011, 9:53 AM ET
By Wallace Matthews | ESPNNewYork.com

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Freddy Garcia, who was the last pitcher named to the New York Yankees' starting rotation out of spring training, was designated Wednesday night to start Game 3 of the ALDS against the Detroit Tigers on Monday at Comerica Park.

The promotion of Garcia, who turns 35 on Oct. 6 and has a fastball that tops out in the mid-80s, exiled A.J. Burnett, the Yankees' $16.5 million per year No. 2 starter, to the bullpen and likely ensured that Bartolo Colon has thrown his last pitch in a Yankees uniform.

"We just like the way that Freddy's pitched," manager Joe Girardi said. "We talked about it and debated it a long time and decided to go with Freddy. We like the way Freddy's competed all year and we're going to send him out there."

Garcia went 12-8 with a 3.62 ERA in 25 starts this season. On May 4, he came out on the short end of a 4-0 score against the Tigers at Comerica, allowing 10 hits and four runs and striking out eight in seven innings.

"They got a good lineup," Garcia said. "I gotta go there and pitch my game. I don't want to pitch different because we're in the playoffs. One pitch at a time, that's the most important thing."

Girardi said the Yankees will go with a three-man rotation for the best-of-five division series, with CC Sabathia pitching Games 1 and 4, Ivan Nova pitching Games 2 and 5 and Garcia pitching Game 3.

Sabathia, who will face Tigers ace and virtual Cy Young Award lock Justin Verlander on Friday night at Yankee Stadium, will have to come back on short rest for Game 4 on Tuesday. Nova will go on normal rest, pitching Saturday and the following Thursday.

But the selection of Garcia was a mild surprise, considering his deception-based repertoire of off-speed pitches. Girardi said he likes the contrast of throwing Garcia in between the hard-throwing Nova and Sabathia.

It was also a surprise considering that in spring training, Garcia was clearly outpitched by Colon, but was still named to the rotation despite having a history of injury that limited him to no more than 58 innings in 2007, 2008 and 2009.

But Garcia was steady throughout the season, and although Colon eventually joined him in the rotation, Colon could not maintain the same level of performance as Garcia. In his last start, Garcia threw six shutout innings Saturday against the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium.

Although it has not been officially announced, it appears there is no place for Colon, at least on the ALDS roster. And Burnett, who struggled all season to an 11-11 record and 5.15 ERA, began his new role as a middle reliever Wednesday night, retiring Sean Rodriguez, the only batter he faced, in the Rays' dramatic 8-7 walk-off victory decided on Evan Longoria's home run in the 12th inning.

"We wanted to get A.J. used to working out of the bullpen as much as we could," Girardi said.

Now, what was supposed to be Burnett's job belongs to Garcia, who signed a minor league deal that turned into a one-year deal with a guaranteed $1.5 million base salary if he made the club, plus incentives that could pay him another $2 million.

But his hope all along was to pitch into October.

"If you sign with the Yankees, that's what you think about, the playoffs," he said. "You sign here, you think about this stuff. You never know what's going to happen."

Wallace Matthews covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com.

Wallace Matthews has covered New York sports since 1983 as a reporter, columnist, radio host and TV commentator. He covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com after working for Newsday, the New York Post, the New York Sun and ESPN New York 98.7 FM.
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