PHILADELPHIA -- Luis Garcia did not have high expectations after a tryout he attended in January.
There were plenty of reasons for the pitcher not to get his hopes up. Garcia had been out of organizational baseball for two years while he worked in a barbershop and for a moving company in New Jersey. The last time he pitched, he posted an 11.57 ERA in nine games for the Newark Bears, an independent team.
So as days passed and Garcia didn't hear about an opportunity to revive his career, he did not think too much of it. But then he got a call from the Phillies.
"I thought, 'Oh, I'm going to stop playing again,' because I was throwing pretty hard and nobody said they were going to give me a chance," Garcia said. "So, I stopped for a little bit, like two weeks, but then the Phillies called me and said, 'Hey we're going to see you.' "
What the Phillies saw was a right-hander with a 94-97-mph fastball and a pretty good slider. After watching Garcia throw again, Philadelphia decided to give him a chance. The reliever never pitched above Class A before this season, but he raced through the Phillies' Minor League system, getting hitters out efficiently at every level.
With the Phillies' bullpen facing a multitude of injuries and in need of capable arms, Garcia got called up to the Majors from Triple-A Lehigh Valley on Tuesday. The 26-year-old was summoned from the 'pen Wednesday and pitched a scoreless eighth inning against the Nationals.
He had made it from the barbershop to the big leagues.
"I wasn't really thinking that much," Garcia said of his first Major League outing. "The first day I was really nervous, yesterday was better. I was focused, just trying to get people out, throw strikes."
Garcia, a native of the Dominican Republic, faced the heart of the Nationals' order. Ryan Zimmerman reached on a strike-three wild pitch and Jayson Werth walked, but Garcia was able to escape unscathed when he got Adam LaRoche to ground into a double play.
It's been a whirlwind ride for Garcia in the past few months, one that he said he could not envision.
"I was in standard Spring Training, then I moved to up to High-A, I was thinking I was going to stay there for a whole year," said Garcia. "Then I moved to Double-A, and I was thinking the same thing. Then they moved me to Triple-A, and I was like 'OK, that's it.' But now I'm here."
Garcia's professional journey started in the Dominican Summer League for the Dodgers' organization in 2006. He made it as far as Class A Potomac with the Nationals in both 2009 and '10, but Garcia struggled three years ago and had a 10.38 ERA in six games with Potomac.
After the 2010 campaign, he said he lost contact with his agent, and then quit professional baseball.
"The last year was 2010, and that was not a good year for me," Garcia said. "My agent just disappeared, I had nobody to get people to see me and get a contract, so I just decided to stop."
Garcia still had ties to the sport after 2010. He taught the game at a New Jersey clinic, a job he got when he was searching for some place to throw in a bullpen. Then last year, he played in the independent Can-Am League and struggled, which he attributed to a lack of practice.
But Garcia wanted another shot in baseball, which came when a friend told him about the tryout just six months ago.
"You'd be surprised, since I've been a manager, in the Minor Leagues and the Major Leagues, how many people call me and want to get back in the game," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "Once they get out, they want back to get another chance. They like it more than they think they do, and they're more dedicated than they think they are."
The 6-foot-3, 230-pound Garcia had a combined 1.67 ERA and 39 strikeouts in 37 2/3 innings at three Minor League levels this season. Garcia said improvement of his slider and fastball, as well as better control, are reasons for his success this season, and he is obviously hoping to pitch well enough to stay in the Majors.
He said he was not that good at cutting hair, anyway.
"Now I know how hard it is to be out," Garcia said. "I appreciate the opportunities now. I work harder and I know what I have to do now."
Amaro considers Phillies potential buyers
PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Thursday if the July 31 Trade Deadline were Friday, they would be buyers.
But the situation remains fluid.
"No one is running away with it," Amaro said of the National League East and NL Wild Card races. "No one is invincible."
The Phillies last season stood at 37-50 at the All-Star break, 10 games behind the Wild Card leaders and 14 games behind the Nationals in the division. They entered Thursday's series finale against the Nationals 45-47, 6 1/2 games behind the Wild Card leaders and 7 1/2 games behind the Braves in the division. The All-Star break begins following Sunday's game against the White Sox.
"I actually considered us less of a contender last year than we are now," Amaro said. "Weren't we 10, 11 games under .500 last year?"
Fourteen at one point, actually.
"I think if we were 14 [under], we'd be doing the same thing we did last year," he said.
The Phillies traded Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence at the Trade Deadline, but finished the season 36-24 for the fifth-best record in the league. They actually moved within three games of a Wild Card spot on Sept. 21 before finishing 4-7.
Amaro said he could subtract from the 25-man roster and still compete for the division title or a Wild Card spot. The Phillies technically could replace nearly anybody on their roster with another player in the organization, except closer.
It seems nobody could replace closer Jonathan Papelbon.
"I don't have a legitimate closer candidate," Amaro said.
So the Phillies need Papelbon to compete? Any team that needs a closer already has been connected to Papelbon, including Detroit and Boston.
"As it's constituted right now, yes," Amaro said.
Amaro reiterated the team needs bullpen help, but at what cost? If the Phillies are on the fence about buying or selling, would it make sense to trade a quality prospect or two for a reliever?
"I don't really want to move young talent," Amaro said. "If I have to do it to try to improve the club now, we'll have to figure that out. But with the way our club is and the age, I think it's a young man's game. We'll try to keep as many young assets as we can."
Amaro also said he has the financial flexibility to make a move if needed.
"My bosses have always allowed us to do the sensible thing, if it's something that makes some sense," he said.
Lefty-hitting Revere seeing success vs. lefties
PHILADELPHIA -- Ben Revere's numbers have spiked since a very slow first month with the Phillies.
But what some people might not realize is the left-handed Revere actually has better numbers against left-handed pitching.
Revere is 25-for-69 (.362) against southpaws this season, which trumps his .284 average in 236 at-bats against right-handers. This isn't a one-season phenomenon for the center fielder, either. In his career, Revere has a .299 average against lefties and a .277 mark when facing righties.
"The main thing when I grew up was to keep my front shoulder in, that can help you on fastballs and offspeed pitches," Revere said. "Ever since then, I've been hitting lefties all through the Minors and the Majors."
Revere -- whom the Phillies received in a trade from the Twins during the offseason -- slumped through the first month of the season and had a .200 average in his first 23 games. This gave many fans a negative impression of the speedster, but he has done a lot to get people cheering for him since April.
Since May 1, Revere is hitting .344 in 63 games. Revere did come up empty at the plate in a few run-scoring opportunities on Wednesday against the Nationals, but his .302 average leads the team, as do his 21 steals. He compared his slow start to having a bad Monday at work.
"That's the way some Mondays are. Mondays, April, you wake up and nothing can go right," Revere said. "You just got to keep fighting, that's the main thing. I was down in the dumps and stuck there. But this pitching, it's a little bit different, I knew I could hit it. It took a little bit of time, but I got rolling."
• Phillies left fielder Domonic Brown was again passed over for the Home Run Derby on Thursday. Carlos Gonzalez, the National League leader in homers, opted out of the contest because of a finger injury, and David Wright chose Pedro Alvarez to replace him. Brown was a potential candidate for the field, and his 23 homers tie him with Alvarez for the second most in the NL.
• Phillies first baseman Darin Ruf hit his first homer of the season Wednesday, and he is 5-for-13 (.385) since being called up to replace the injured Ryan Howard on Saturday.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. Stephen Pianovich is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.