Tigers call up prospect Garcia for stretch run

Tigers call up prospect Garcia for stretch run

Tigers call up prospect Garcia for stretch run
DETROIT -- The Tigers are going to give five-tool outfield prospect Avisail Garcia his shot in the big leagues -- in the middle of a playoff chase. They aren't going to wait until September callups to do it.

On the eve of rosters expanding, the Tigers made the move with Garcia, recalling him from Double-A Erie on Friday afternoon. The decision makes the 21-year-old Venezuelan eligible for potential postseason rosters.

If the Tigers get to the playoffs, there's a good chance they're going to need Garcia's help to get there. On athletic ability alone, he has the capability to make an impact. Garcia will get his shot beginning Saturday night, when he's expected to start in right field and bat seventh in the order against White Sox left-hander Francisco Liriano.

Garcia, who is ranked No. 6 among the Top 20 Tigers prospects, will start in right field against left-handed hitters and serve as a defensive replacement in other games. Manager Jim Leyland didn't rule out starting Garcia more than just in righty-lefty situations if the rookie heats up at the plate.

"We're going to try him. Why not?" Leyland said. "He might come up and not do anything. He might come up and give us a jolt. Who knows how it's going to work out, but I'm going to put him in there, see what he does."

Garcia was a prized international signing five years ago and began his rise through the system in 2009 at Class A West Michigan. Garcia began this season at Class A Lakeland and earned Florida State League All-Star honors before being promoted to Erie, where he batted .312 (67-for-215) with nine doubles, six home runs, 22 RBIs and an .810 OPS for the SeaWolves.

Garcia's speed belies his 6-foot-4, 240-pound frame, and his strong arm -- which he showed off in Spring Training with the big club -- led to 15 assists between Lakeland and Erie, five of them from center field.

"We talked to a lot of our people about him," Tigers president, CEO and general manager Dave Dombrowski said. "He's had a very fine year. He did well when he was at Lakeland, of course, and he's gone up to Double-A and he's hit over .300 on a consistent basis. He plays very well in the outfield. He runs well. He's a multi-tool player.

"People have felt he's ready to come up and help us. We actually talked about it on the first of August, but he's had that extra month of development time and he's continued to play well, so we think he's ready to come out and help us."

The Tigers designated recently-acquired utilityman Jeff Baker for assignment to make room on the 25-man roster. The Tigers traded for Baker earlier this month to serve as a starting outfielder against left-handed pitchers, but he went just 7-for-35 with 10 strikeouts.

"I think it's certainly unfair to judge a guy in the little bit that we've seen [Baker]. It just wasn't working well at this particular time," Leyland said. "I'm sure he'll probably work somewhere else again, starting over somewhere else next year, because the track record's OK. It just wasn't working here, so we decided to make the move."

Hours after designating Baker, the Tigers traded him to Atlanta for a player to be named. The player will be announced on or before Sept. 30.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.