St. Louis Cardinals

Garcia deems himself ready to return to Cardinals’ rotation; Walden begins rehab

Jaime Garcia doesn’t have much interest in making another minor-league rehab start, and the St. Louis Cardinals might not, either.

Garcia, recovering from a strained left groin, threw five no-hit innings Thursday for low-Class A Peoria of the Midwest League. Two Chiefs relievers followed Garcia and completed the no-hitter in Peoria’s 2-0 win over Clinton. Garcia threw 58 pitches, including 41 strikes. He walked none and struck out six.

On Friday, Garcia said he’s ready to resume his role in the rotation.

“I expressed to (the Cardinals) that with what I have right now, I can compete and I can help this team win ballgames,” Garcia said from the home dugout at Busch Stadium. “I told them I’m ready to do whatever they want me to do. If they want me to pitch in my next start here, I’ll prepare for that. Whatever decision I make, I’ll be up for that.

“Obviously, getting one more start (in the minors) would probably be OK. But I feel I’m at a point right now where I’m ready to compete. I want to help, and I want to be out there so bad that I feel like I’m ready to go out there and give us a chance to win. I have not heard, but I’m really hoping it will be up here.”

Cardinals General Manager John Mozeliak didn’t discount that possibility.

“I’ll get with Mike and ‘Lilli’ the next couple days and we’ll make that decision,” Mozeliak said, referring to Cardinals manager Mike Matheny and pitching coach Derek Lilliquist.

Mozeliak said starting Garcia next week against Cincinnati or Colorado is “certainly something we’ll consider.”

“He was dealing with a groin, not an arm, so his arm felt great, he pitched well, and that was good for us,” Mozeliak said.

Garcia learned late Thursday that Peoria completed the no-hitter.

“I didn’t even know we had thrown a no-hitter until I was halfway coming to St. Louis driving back,” Garcia said. “I got a text from our clubbie. I guess that speaks well of the whole team. They have a good defense and good players down there.

“For me, personally, I felt good and I was able to get some work done. It’s been a while since I’ve thrown in a real game, so that’s always something to adapt to. I was able to make some pitches and get used to the mound. You don’t really get caught up with the numbers.”

Garcia said he felt no discomfort in the groin area when he had to cover first on a play.

“I actually had a play where I had to sprint as hard as I could to first base, which was a challenge,” Garcia said. “I was able to recover fine. That happened in the third inning, and I was able to throw five innings. It was a good challenge and was good to have that play. It was a fast runner, too, to where I had to get over there.”

Garcia was satisfied with the crispness of his pitches.

“At first, I was falling behind a couple guys there, but it got better as I went on. I was able to throw some good sinkers and good changeups in the strike zone,” he said. “And you don’t really get caught up in the results out there. It’s more about how I felt. I take a lot of good things out of it. Things got better as the game went on.

“They were pretty smooth innings that I had. I was able to stretch it out. I could have maybe gotten one more hitter out, but to get through five, that’s about everything you can ask for, especially in the first start.”

Walden’s assignment

Jordan Walden threw one scoreless inning and struck out one for Class AA Springfield on Thursday, returned to St. Louis on Friday and will pitch another inning for Springfield on Saturday. Walden is less than two weeks away from rejoining the Cardinals bullpen.

“The first pitch, I gave up a double,” Walden said. “Right away, I had to lock it in. I tested my slider and it was good. I got out of (the jam). Just trying to see how I feel after I play catch right now.”

Walden said the Cardinals haven’t told him when they expect him back in the big leagues. He has been sidelined since April 30 with a biceps inflammation.

“I’m throwing in Springfield again (Saturday). Anything after that, I don’t know yet,” Walden said. “I’ll pretty much see how I feel. It’s up to them then.”

Roster composition

With the arrival of reliever Steve Cishek from Miami via trade Friday, the Cardinals likely will opt to carry 13 pitchers. They will make roster move before the game Saturday.

First baseman Dan Johnson could be the odd man out.

Matheny said he wouldn’t be worried about a four-man bench considering left fielder Matt Holliday is feeling much better after his quadriceps injury.

“I think (Holliday’s) limitations are coming to an end,” Matheny said. “He’s feeling good and we’ve been able to stretch him a little bit more and more. We haven’t made the decision, which way we’re going to go. If we did have to go that route (four bench players), I’m not overly concerned about it. When Matt was completely healthy, we were still quick to try to get Peter Bourjos in there and better our defense if we had the lead. So it’s not an issue at this point.”

One week to go

Mozeliak indicated the Cardinals might not be done dealing. They now could be in the market for a third baseman or a first baseman. If they are able to deal for a third baseman, Matt Carpenter could be shifted to first base.

“The clock is ticking,” Mozeliak said. “The good news is there are still seven days left, so there is still opportunity for us. ... I would say we’re going to remain open-minded. If we feel there is something that can help this club, we’ll pursue it.”

Contact reporter David Wilhelm at dwilhelm@bnd.com or 618-239-2665. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidMWilhelm.

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