ANAHEIM, Calif. — As a veteran of 14 major league seasons, it took a while for right-hander Freddy Garcia to get used to those long bus rides in Triple-A.
But when the 36-year-old pitcher decided to sign a minor league deal with the Orioles before this season — and then agreed to remain with the organization past his initial opt-out date earlier this week — he had the faith that he'd soon pitch again in the big leagues.
Garcia will make his Orioles and 2013 major league debut on Saturday against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium, where he is 8-1 with a 3.18 ERA in 16 career starts. Garcia, who spent his first six seasons pitching in the American League West with the Seattle Mariners, is 16-3 with a 2.66 ERA in 28 career starts against the Angels.
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"There was no way I was going to go to another Triple-A team, and I got called up," said Garcia, who joined the Orioles in Anaheim on Friday. "It was the best for me to stay there and pitch whatever [games] I had to pitch and finally they called me up. I know they need pitching. At some point, they would need me. This division is one of the toughest ones in baseball, and they always need pitching. …
"I know I can pitch and I can help the team win games and throw innings. They need guys to pitch innings here to save the bullpen, because the bullpen is really one of their strengths. [If] you kill your bullpen early in the season, a couple months later it's going to hurt."
Garcia said it was initially a tough adjustment trying to work his way back to the big leagues through the minors. But he recently was awarded the International League pitcher of the week award after going 2-0 with a 1.69 ERA last week for Norfolk, and led the league in wins (four) and innings pitched (33 2/3).
"I was working really hard," Garcia said. "I told myself, 'You're there. You have to keep your mind there.' There's no dreaming about stuff. It's not easy when you play in the big leagues for so long and now you're a regular Triple-A guy. You're doing the same stuff they do, wherever they eat, whatever hotel they stay in, the long bus rides, all kind of stuff. You can not take it for granted. You have to keep working hard and make it happen, man."
Orioles manager Buck Showalter has said that he hopes someone eventually takes the reins of the open fifth starter slot in the team's rotation. Garcia, who was released by the San Diego Padres at the end of spring training, hopes that's him.
"I really don't care what people say," Garcia said. "I just go out there and do my job. … I really don't care, because I always put up numbers and that's all you can really do is keep putting up numbers."
Said Showalter: "He's pitched pretty well. This is not a guy that was a failed starter in the big leagues. I'll tell you another thing: Everybody early in the season carries better stuff than they do later on, so he's pretty fresh right now."
Reimold leads off
Coming off one of his best offensive performances of the season on Thursday, left fielder Nolan Reimold batted leadoff for the first time this season on Friday.
Reimold was 2-for-4 with three runs scored in the Orioles' 5-1 win over the Angels on Thursday night, picking up 15 points to his batting average — from .203 to .218.
"I think I'm starting to feel a little better at the plate," Reimold said. "Hitting isn't just swinging. There's a feel to it. You've just got to work to get the feel back and get comfortable."
Reimold entered Friday 3-for-9 with a homer and two RBIs in his career against Angels starter Jason Vargas.
"[I] wanted to get him a couple more at-bats," Showalter said of Reimold. "I think he's getting close to being in a pretty good place. We'll see. He's had a little success off Vargas. We've got a very versatile lineup and fortunately there are not a whole lot of questions about where they are hitting. They just want to play."
Before a herniated disc in his neck required season-ending surgery after just 15 games last season, Reimold batted nearly exclusively from the leadoff spot in 2012, and he also hit atop the order this spring.
Avoiding the hive
The camera behind home plate at Angel Stadium was covered with bees during Thursday's game, which made for some uneasy moments for catcher Matt Wieters when he went to chase down a foul ball near the backstop.
"Wieters went back for a pop-up kind of over there early in the game," Showalter said. "He walked by me and goes, 'That took a little courage there.' If you don't look at the camera and get the chill bumps, you should be on Animal Planet. I couldn't quit looking on it. It was funny watching the on-deck hitters."
Stadium workers sprayed the camera before Friday's game and it appeared that most of the bees were gone.
Triple-A Norfolk right-hander Jair Jurrjens allowed just two earned runs on seven hits through eight innings with six strikeouts and one walk on Friday. … Double-A Bowie right fielder Henry Urrutia drove in three runs and was 2-for-4 with a walk Friday as the Cuban defector improved his batting average to .295 over 11 pro games. … Class-A Delmarva first baseman Christian Walker was named the Orioles' minor league player of the month for April after hitting .360 with three homers and 16 RBIs. He hit safely in 18 of 24 games last month, including 11 multi-hit games. … Class-A Frederick left-hander Timothy Berry was named the Orioles' minor league pitcher of the month. He was 2-1 with a 3.21 ERA in five April starts. He struck out at least eight batters in three of his last four outings.
Around the horn
Left-handed hitting Nate McLouth, who is batting .429/.510/.714 in his last 11 games, sat for the third time in the past eight games, all of them against left-handed starters. … Third baseman Manny Machado entered Friday night riding an 11-game hitting streak, the a team season high and the franchise record for a player under 21 years old. Machado was hitting .426 (20-for-47) with eight runs, seven doubles, a triple, seven RBIs and seven multi-hit games in that span. … Left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada (Tommy John surgery) is scheduled to throw five innings in an extended spring training game Saturday. It could be his final outing before going on minor league rehab assignment. … Second baseman Brian Roberts continued his recovery in Sarasota, Fla., running the foul poles, increasing his throwing from 75 to 90 feet and taking some swings off a tee. There's still no estimated time table for his return from a right hamstring injury. Showalter said he expects Robets to avoid the 60-day disabled list.