While there have been many bright spots during the first 12 games of the season for the Altoona Curve, there have been a few low points as well.

Altoona Curve starter Yeudy Garcia has had his share of low points this season. And last season.

Garcia, the Pittsburgh Pirates’ 13th-ranked overall prospect, failed to make it through an inning in his first start of the season. He lasted two-thirds of an inning and gave up a hit, two runs, and two walks in 30 pitches.

Monday night’s start was a step in the right direction for the right handed pitcher as Garcia made it four full innings but yielded three earned runs, two of them coming via the long ball.

“I just don’t think he was ready to pitch, but he was better than his last outing so that’s the positive,”  Altoona Curve manager Michael Ryan said of Garcia following Altoona’s 7-1 loss Monday night.

Garcia’s performance through his two starts is not uncharted territory as he experienced a lack of success at the beginning of the 2016 season with  the Bradenton Marauders. It was Ryan who managed the 2016 version of that club which featured Garcia and it was those same Marauders who went on to win the Florida State League Title.

Even with the improvements made between starts, Garcia still has a great deal of work to do to help his team get back to the post-season.

Adjustment Period

With the two troublesome starts, the Pirates’ 13th ranked prospect (according to MLB Pipeline) has found himself back in murky waters to start the season for the second year in a row, something the Altoona Curve skipper Ryan pointed out following Monday’s game.

“It’s a similar start to last year where he had a tough time adjusting to the new league and got way better so we have that to look forward to,” Ryan said.

Growing pains are common among young players especially pitchers as the acclimate themselves to new leagues and surroundings and Garcia seems to be no different so far according to the Curve manager.

“It’s just adjusting to the new league, for a younger pitcher that’s going to be normal, we just have to work through it,” Altoona’s chief told me after Monday’s outing.

Looking back to last year with Bradenton, it took Garcia five starts to get through six innings and nine starts to notch his first win of the season. While Garcia is now in Double-A and with the Altoona Curve, the comparisons are strikingly similar.

“He’s done this before so he just needs to put it behind him, look forward to the next start and put the work in in between,” Ryan said of Garcia’s early struggles.

Where Garcia goes from here remains to be seen, however, the odds of him returning to top form each start get better as the season goes along.

“He’s a good pitcher he just has to realize his stuff has to be better than what he’s going against each night,” Ryan said.

Sticking to the plan

As pitchers adjust to new leagues, new hitters, and new surroundings, they are often given pitching game plans to work with as they adjust and grow during the season. Usually put together by the manager, pitching coach, and pitcher himself, the plan’s results are generally contingent on the execution of the plan and an ability to not deviate from said plan during one’s start. On Monday night, Garcia struggled mightily with sticking to the plan devised for his second start.

“We had a plan coming in and he just didn’t stick with it. By no means was he unprepared or anything like that, but he didn’t stick to the plan we had coming in and it showed,” Ryan said of Garcia being unable to stick to the game plan.

I just don’t think he was ready to pitch.

Altoona Curve manager Michael Ryan on Yeudy Garcia

Garcia managed to get two quick outs in the first inning, however, it was the third out that proved to be most elusive as Erie’s hitters started to hit the right-handed starter all over the ball park. Following a line drive single to left by Logan Watkins, Garcia threw a pitch up in the zone which resulted in the first pitch fastball being deposited over the right-center field fence of the bat of Mike Gerber.

Garcia would miss up in the zone on the next batter, Christin Stewart, as Stewart hit a long fly ball off the center field wall for a triple. While some have said there’s an emphasis within the Pirates’ organization of throwing in the upper third of the zone, the two pitches resulting in a triple and a homer were supposed to be at the knees according to Ryan.

“I thought he was good until he let off the brakes a little bit, I think, when he would get two outs. I think he thought the inning would be over just because he got the two quick outs, but that’s when you need to bring it a little better,” Ryan said.

The key though to for Garcia’s success moving forward is something that lies solely on Garcia and his belief in his stuff and his ability.

“He has good stuff, he just has to trust his stuff. I’m not going to say he’s pitching with fear, but he’s pitching with doubt and those are two different things. He just has to trust his stuff and understand how good he can be and believe in it,” Ryan said.

Jarrod Prugar

Jarrod Prugar is 5 and a half feet tall and you can’t teach that. Jarrod grew up watching future Pirates light up the Eastern League for the Altoona Curve before going off to Robert Morris for college.

Jarrod also covers Penn State for the Pittsburgh Sporting News. Ban the DH!