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Orioles Rule 5 pick Jason Garcia soaks in memorable major league debut

The Tampa Bay Rays were able to avoid the sweep with a 2-0 shutout of the Baltimore Orioles. Orioles starter Miguel Gonzalez took the loss after pitching 5 2/3 innings. (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun video)

ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. — Jason Garcia's bullpen mates tried to tell him what making his major league debut would be like, but the Orioles' 22-year-old rookie still wasn't prepared for the feeling.

The last time he pitched in a regular season game in August, it was for the Greenville Drive, the Boston Red Sox's low Class-A team, so pitching in the big leagues in the third game of the regular season seemed unfathomable not long ago.

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The Orioles acquired the Rule 5 pick in December and even though executive vice president Dan Duquette said it would be a reach to make the Opening Day roster, Garcia made the club as its final bullpen arm.

Still, it was unclear how the Orioles would use him. Manager Buck Showalter said it many times, you can't hide a Rule 5 pick in the American League East.

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"There is no perfect spot," Showalter said. "If you're going to carry a pitcher in the American League East, he's going to have to pitch. … It makes us a little short on the bench right now, but we also would like to figure out a way to keep good potential pitchers, and he has that potential."

So Garcia was thrown into a one-run game to pitch the seventh inning of the Orioles' 2-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays Wednesday night at Tropicana Field, which is just 45 minutes from Garcia's hometown of Land O'Lakes, Fla.

"It was a big rush being out there for the first time," Garcia said. "Some of the guys try to give me a heads up what it would be like but I don't think you can really explain what that felt like."

"I think it was initially that jog in is when it kind of hits you," he added.

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Garcia performed well in his debut, throwing a scoreless inning as he leaned on the mid-90s fastball that drew the Orioles' attention last September in the instructional league.

Garcia retired the first two hitters he faced, inducing two fly-ball outs from Rene Rivera and David DeJesus. His two-out walk of Steven Souza, Jr. was erased when catcher Ryan Lavarnway threw out Souza attempting to steal second. The play was reviewed, but upheld.

"Man, that was really cool," Lavarnway said. "I'm glad I got to be a part of that with him. Showed a lot of poise, a lot of character going out there. We had the walk, but he overcame it and threw the ball really well."

After the game, Garcia had few words to describe the experience. Asked what he was thinking during the replay review, he said, "To be honest, I can't remember. I was still amped up."

"There was a lot of emotion flying there," Showalter said. "There were a lot of hamsters running around backwards in that cage. It's an honor as you get older to have a seat to watch something like that. I know what a big moment it was for him and his family."

Garcia said he had about 10 friends and family members at the game.

"It's pretty cool to have that first debut here, family gets to see," Garcia said. "So it's pretty cool. … I've never been much of a souvenir guy but I think I'll try to grab that ball or lineup card, yeah."

After the game, Garcia received a congratulatory handshake from reliever Darren O'Day and some advice from Orioles Hall of Famer and MASN analyst Jim Palmer.

"Being in the bullpen when you get that call you always get that thrill," Garcia said. "But it's a good thrill, it's exciting."

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