- Wallace Matthews, ESPNNewYork.com
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TAMPA, Fla. -- The drive for five spun off the road for Freddy Garcia on Saturday afternoon at Steinbrenner Field.
In his second-to-last start of the spring, Garcia -- locked into a tight competition with Sergio Mitre and Bartolo Colon for the fifth spot in the New York Yankees' rotation -- allowed five runs on five hits, one of them a colossal two-run homer by David Cooper, in six innings to bloat his spring training ERA to 5.93.
"Whatever happens after today, I don't know," Garcia said. "That's not on me. I pitched today, I tried to do the best I can do out there, throw a lot of strikes, go after hitters. That's the only thing I can do. It's not my decision."
Joe Girardi said one bad start would not necessarily doom Garcia's chances, but, in fact, it was Garcia's second straight subpar outing. On March 13, Garcia was rocked for four runs on six hits and two walks by the Minnesota Twins.
Meanwhile, Colon, trying to return to the major leagues after a nearly 18-month absence caused by injuries, is 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA in three starts. Mitre, despite missing a few days with an oblique strain, is 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA after four appearances, but just one start.
Garcia retired the first nine Blue Jays he faced Saturday but got into trouble in the fourth inning, allowing three runs on a double, two singles, a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly. He settled down to pitch a clean fifth, including two strikeouts -- he had six in six innings -- but couldn't get a 3-2 slider past Cooper, who crushed it into the pavilion above and well beyond the right-field bleachers.
"He looked like he was gonna get out of it, but he hung a slider and that was that," Girardi said. "Home run. He didn't give up a lot of hits but the hits that they had were very productive."
Garcia got a bad break when Eduardo Nuñez, an infielder by trade playing left field, couldn't quite get to a fly ball that dropped on the warning track for a double that might have been caught for the first out of the inning. But an inning earlier, Nuñez had saved Garcia with a terrific over-the-shoulder catch of a similar fly ball for the third out.
"I'm not gonna make too much of one start," Girardi said, drawing out the word "too" to indicate he couldn't completely dismiss it, either. "But obviously you have to continue to make pitches in this league, there's no doubt about it. The quality of pitches have to always be there. But he left some balls up and one down and in and it cost him."
Garcia won 12 games for the White Sox last year but came to camp as a non-roster invitee with just a minor-league deal that will pay him $1.5 million if he makes the team and could pay him as much as $3.6 million in incentives if he makes 30 starts.
He may also request his release if he is not on the active roster on March 29, the day the Yankees break camp.
Saturday, Garcia indicated that for him, it is win that last starting job or bolt.
"If I don't make the team, what am I supposed to do in Triple-A?," he said. "I'm 34 years old, I been in the business for a long time. I've said it before, if I don't make this team, I'll probably [make it] somewhere, because there's a lot of people out there who've seen me pitch.
"My goal is to make the team. But it's out of my hands. I didn't pitch the way I wanted to pitch, but that's the way it is."
• • •
Alex Rodriguez continued his sizzling spring with a first-inning double that extended his RBI streak to six games, his hit streak to 12 spring games and his Grapefruit League average to .412. He scored on Robinson Cano's first spring home run of the season. ... Derek Jeter, hitting .351, went 3-for-4, including a double into the right-center gap that might have been his best hit ball of the spring so far. ... Mariano Rivera was ridiculously dominant again, needing just 11 pitches to get through the seventh, including two K's. ... Mark Prior pitched a scoreless eighth, including two strikeouts. His spring ERA is down to 1.59. ... The game was called a 5-5 tie after 10 innings, the Yankees' third tie this spring. ... CC Sabathia gets the ball Sunday against the Phillies in Clearwater (1:05 p.m., WCBS-AM 880 only). RHP Joe Blanton goes for the Phillies, and all the Yankees' regulars minus Jorge Posada are on the travel roster.
Giving up a colossal homer was among Freddy Garcia's woes in his latest start.