JUPITER, Fla. -- Sandwiched in the rotation between two aces and another pair of proven veterans, Jaime Garcia stands to be a key member of the Cardinals' pitching staff, even if he consumes much less of the limelight than his fellow starters.
With so much attention on Adam Wainwright's return, Chris Carpenter's durability and Jake Westbrook's weight loss this spring, Garcia has spent the last few weeks simply getting himself ready for the season, without many accompanying headlines.
Garcia, 25, has now pitched two full seasons since wrapping up his recovery from Tommy John surgery, putting him in a place where many believe he should be ready for a sizable step forward in growth and results. Making substantial improvement isn't a given, though, particularly because of how high Garcia has already set the bar.
In his first two full seasons in the Majors, Garcia is 26-15 with a 3.17 ERA in 60 starts. Of all the National League starters who have accrued 300 innings over the past two seasons, only 11 have posted a lower ERA than Garcia's. No other Cardinals starter is on that list.
"I already know myself, and I already know what I need to do to be successful and what I've done to get me to the big leagues," Garcia said. "It's about maturing and being able to make adjustments. I'm trying to get to the point where I can be my own coach and make adjustments and basically do what works."
Garcia was one of 10 pitchers to throw a side session on Friday, and he is expected to make his Grapefruit League debut next week.
"I'm trying to prove myself out on the field -- don't get satisfied, don't get comfortable," he said. "I'm still battling to try and make the team. I am working as hard as I can every day to get better."
Matheny intrigued by new postseason format
JUPITER, Fla. -- Major League Baseball and the Players Association announced on Friday that the postseason will expand to a 10-team format beginning this year. The expanded format, which will include the addition of a second Wild Card team in both leagues, was, in accordance with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, otherwise going to be introduced in 2013.
The new system adds a one-game playoff between each league's two Wild Card winners. The winner of that game then moves on to the Division Series, which retains its best-of-five format.
Because of scheduling concerns, the LDS format will also be tweaked, but just for the 2012 season. This fall, the team with the better record will start the LDS with two road games before coming home for the final three (or as many as are necessary). This is a change from the traditional 2-2-1 format.
"We all see the benefit of how the Wild Card played out," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "There were a lot of people against it at the time, and it proved to make some very meaningful games for some teams who otherwise wouldn't have had anything going on. I think they're making some good decisions. The decisions they've made in the past have proven to be right. It will be fun to watch how it all plays out."
Had this format been in place a year ago, the Cardinals' run to the World Series would have taken a different course. The club would have wrapped up a playoff spot before the final day of the season; however, the Cardinals also would have needed to beat Atlanta in a one-game playoff in order to even earn the chance to face the Phillies in the NLDS.
Manager Mike Matheny divulged a few additional Grapefruit League pitching assignments on Friday. Brandon Dickson, who is likely to begin the year in the Triple-A rotation, will follow Kyle Lohse on the mound in Monday's opener. Jake Westbrook will start Tuesday's road game against the Mets.
Friday's workouts wrapped up by about 10:30 a.m. ET, giving players and staff most of the day off. Shelby Miller, Kyle McClellan, John Gast and Fernando Salas were the only pitchers to throw live batting practice. Position players who didn't swing against these pitchers did their work in the batting cages.
The team will hold part of Saturday's workout inside Roger Dean Stadium. To this point, all the work has taken place in the backfields behind the complex. The Cardinals will complete Saturday's work prior to 1 p.m. ET so that they can attend an autograph signing event for season-ticket holders.
The Marlins are expected to send Josh Johnson to the mound to face the Cardinals in Monday's Grapefruit League game. Johnson has not pitched in a game since mid-May, as shoulder inflammation cost him the rest of the 2011 season.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.