PITTSBURGH – With social media often being a rather mean place, Jarlin Garcia has been drawing some unflattering comparisons.
Some fans have compared the left-handed reliever to Lonnie Chisenhall, an outfielder who signed a $2.75-million contract prior to the 2019 season with the Pittsburgh Pirates then never played a game because of a fractured right finger sustained in spring training.
Chisenhall’s case was mysterious. He left the team that May, never returned and Pirates officials were always vague when asked about Chisenhall.
Like Chisenhall, Garcia has yet to pitch in a game for the Pirates after signing a one-year, $2.5-million contract as a free agent in December. Garcia has been on the injured list since the beginning of the season with nerve damage in his upper left arm.
However, the comparisons between Chisenhall and Garcia end there.
Garcia is with the team and in the dugout during home games. When the Pirates go on the road, he stays behind in Pittsburgh and continues his rehab.
Garcia is expected to take a significant step in that rehab process this week when he plays catch from 45 feet, the first time he will throw a baseball since spring training.
“I’m staying positive,” Garcia said last week. “It’s been a little tough coming to a new team and getting hurt but God only gives people what they can handle. I really believe that.”
It would be easy for Garcia to get frustrated. However, he has kept such a good attitude throughout his rehab that it’s Garcia who keeps the Pirates’ spirits up rather than the other way around.
“He’s such an optimistic, upbeat individual – and he’s not giving up,” Pirates director of sports medicine Todd Tomczyk said. “We know that nerves take a long time to come back. This is proven to be as such. The team is motivating him and being creative in trying to get him to throw – although he’s not gripping a ball maybe the way he should, we’re simulating a throw to maybe stimulate that nerve a little bit differently.
“Being creative, continuing to be positive with him but a lot of it’s on Jarlin. He’s such a positive individual in life – and he’s not a quitter. He wants to prove he can come back.”
The Pirates signed Garcia with the idea that he would be a key member of their bullpen this season. The 30-year-old has a 3.61 career ERA in six seasons and 274 games in the major leagues with the Miami Marlins (2017-19) and San Francisco Giants (2020-22).
However, Garcia has not been forgotten by manager Derek Shelton, who has developed an affection for the Dominican Republic native.
“The thing about it, it would be a challenge for a lot of people,” Shelton said. “For Jarlin, it’s not. If you spent any time around this guy, he’s maybe one of the nicest people I’ve been around in the 18 years I’ve been in the big leagues. Genuinely, from the first time I met him – I had a conversation with him when we signed him; and that’s not to say we don’t have a lot of guys this way – but he’s a wonderful human being. He’s always happy. He’s always in a good mood.
“He’s battling through something that we’re all learning about every day, and every time I see him, he’s got a smile on his face and he’s always in a good mood. You don’t know that until you get somebody in your clubhouse. You spend five minutes around the guy, and you feel better about yourself.”
Proof of that is something Garcia said during our interview without prompting.
“Maybe I’ll be back to pitch in the playoffs,” he said with a big smile.
That would make one heckuva story.