It is now official, Jaime Garcia will start on Thursday against the New York Mets for the St. Louis Cardinals.

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“I wouldn’t say a rookie, but definitely there’s a lot of feelings,” smiled Garcia when asked if this was like starting his career over. “A lot of excitement involved, especially after everything I’ve gone through. It’s been a long road. I’m not going to lie to you, it’s definitely exciting but at the same time it’s very overwhelming.

“I’m so thankful and grateful for to be able to have the opportunity to pitch again on a Major League field. That’s something, I knew was very possible about this whole process and I’ve been working extremely hard to get back out there on the mound and I’ve done everything in my control, but at the same time there’s still always that question. It’s still a major surgery and guys have not come back from it. The fact that I’m coming back from it and I’m healthy and that I’m here being able to see my teammates again and have an opportunity to go out there and represent the St. Louis Cardinals, it’s very overwhelming. It’s very exciting.”

After going one year and one day between starts, Garcia’s season ended last year with thoracic outlet syndrome surgery in July. He came into Spring Training and pitched his way into the competition for the fifth spot in the rotation before hitting a setback as the pitch counts expanded deeper.  But after slowing back down the process, Jaime has steadily ramped back up the arm strength–delivering 90 pitches in his last start.

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2-27-15 Jaime Garcia“Great reports on his last start and we need somebody to step up,” commented Manager Mike Matheny with his announcement of the decision. “Going into Spring Training, I think we were all very clear how surprised we were and how he was pushing it. Everything was looking like it was going in a good direction and so we had to change course and kind of just waiting to see what we would see. He came back, had a nice outing. Said he felt great and so at that point we just respond and give him a chance. Obviously, there’s a need on our side so let’s watch and see what he can do.”

“The key thing for us was just how he felt the last couple of days after throwing Friday night,” said General Manager John Mozeliak. “Everything seems to be good and well, so he’ll be given that opportunity.”

“I’m optimistic,” added Mozeliak. “You think back to how well he was throwing the ball early in Spring Training, he admitted though as he got deeper into camp it just wasn’t working. So that’s kind of a test for me on where he is relative to that. He’s been very clear that he’s been feeling much stronger and the ability to respond after he throws. Getting his pitch count up was critical, but clearly right now we need someone to step up and take that fifth spot.”

Garcia is 2-0 against the Mets in his career with one of his four starts against them at Citi Field. But none will be as big as this next.

“I’ve done this for quite some time now–I know what I need to do,” said Garcia of handling the emotions on Thursday. “I just need to go out there and try not to let emotions get to myself and just worry about what I can control.”

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