Jarlin Garcia of the Miami Marlins, who is in his second year in the majors but is a rookie as a starting pitcher, had an 0.78 ERA and allowed a combined total of just 10 hits over his first four starts.
Garcia, a 25-year-old left-hander, yielded 11 hits in his two starts since then, but he still enters Saturday’s third game of the series against the Atlanta Braves with a 1-1 record and a 2.68 ERA.
But even as Garcia has made a definite impact in the majors this year, his counterpart on Saturday, Braves right-hander Mike Soroka, could well ask:
“Hey, what took you so long?”
After all, Soroka is just 20 years old. Soroka skipped the Class-A level of the minors last year. He was still a teenager when he was the second-youngest player to start last season at Double-A.
Soroka responded by posting an 11-8 record and a 2.75 ERA, finishing second in the Southern League in the latter category.
He started this season at Triple-A Gwinnett, going 2-0 with a 1.99 ERA in four starts.
In the majors, Soroka is 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA, which isn’t overwhelming but is impressive given his youth. Soroka can hump his fastball up to 95 mph, but his forte comes in his ability to mix sliders and sinkers while consistently throwing strikes.
Soroka has a sharp and tight curve that ranges 84-86 mph. His curve and sinker eat up right-handed batters, and his changeup — a still-developing pitch — is what Soroka is relying on to battle lefties.
“My sinker is probably my best pitch, but it’s not my only pitch,” Soroka told FanGraphs. “My four-seam fastball is mid-90s with ride. I have a power curveball and a pretty good changeup.
“The ability to have multiple weapons that are good weapons – what else can you ask for?”
Garcia would surely agree, and he and Soroka have a few things in common. For one, both of these young pitchers rely more on control than velocity.
In his two starts with the Braves, Soroka is averaging 7.2 strikeouts and 2.7 walks per nine innings. Garcia, since breaking into the majors last year, is averaging 6.8 strikeouts and 3.2 walks.
Here is another similarity: They both grew up playing other sports. Soroka was a hockey goalie in Canada, finally focusing on baseball at age 12.
Garcia was a soccer player in the Dominican Republic and didn’t play baseball until age 15. He was only 5-foot-7 at the time, but he is now 6-3 after a late growth spurt.
And that’s where their stories diverge. While Soroka entered pro baseball as a first-round pick (28th overall), Garcia needed three years before the Marlins promoted him to full-season baseball.
“Jarlin has been a nice addition,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said of Garcia. “He throws strikes. He’s dependable.”
The Marlins, who snapped a four-game losing streak with a 6-3 win over the Braves on Friday, hope to support Garcia with batters such as J.T. Realmuto and Starlin Castro.
Both Realmuto and Castro ambushed Braves pitchers on Friday. Realmuto homered on the first pitch of the third inning. Castro homered on the second pitch of the fifth inning.
Realmuto, who fell a triple short of what would’ve been the first cycle in Marlins history, went 3-for-5, and Marlins shortstop Miguel Rojas went 3-for-4 as the Marlins pounded out 14 hits.
Atlanta’s offense was led by Ozzie Albies, who had a solo homer, a walk and two runs scored. His homer, No. 12 on the season, tied him at that moment for the National League lead with Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals.