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BALTIMORE- In August of 2013, the Nationals traded veteran catcher Kurt Suzuki to the Oakland A’s for a minor-league pitcher from a college known more for basketball.
Today, nearly seven years later, that pitcher made his Major League debut and is now teammates on the Nationals with Suzuki.
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Dakota Bacus, 29, drafted out of Indiana State by Oakland in 2012, pitched two innings and did not allow a hit or run in the completion of the suspended game against the Orioles.
Mark Scialabba, assistant general manager, player development for the Nationals, has been monitoring Bacus at the alternate site in Fredericksburg. The right-hander from Moline, Illinois made 225 minor-league appearances, with 65 starts, before his first MLB contest.
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“We are very excited for Dakota,” Scialabba wrote to Federal Baseball on Friday night. “He’s grinded his way through the minor leagues for a long time and earned this opportunity.”
“He’s a fearless competitor that showed a great deal of resilience and perseverance throughout his career,” Scialabba added. “Over the last couple of years he’s really focused on how to effectively utilize his strengths and consistently attacks the zone with his sinker, slider, curveball combination.”
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“He looked good. He threw the ball really well. He got some outs for us. It was good to see. He came in and he looked good,” manager Dave Martinez said. “We’ll see how he feels for the second game, but he threw the ball, he threw strikes, which is nice.”
The year prior, Garcia had an issue with surrendering the long ball, even though he finished the season with a WHIP of 0.866.
Sam Clay was signed to a major league contract without having pitched in the majors largely because he is a ground ball pitcher. Last year Garcia had a ground ball rate of 41.7%. There is room in the bullpen for two guys who induce hitters to pound the ball into the ground.
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Injuries in 2020 forced a lot of the younger Nationals pitchers to see action before they normally would have. Acquiring Garcia would mean Seth Romero, Ben Braymer, and Dakota Bacus are not rushed into action before they are ready, should injuries rear their ugly head again.
Garcia is due about $2M in arbitration this season and is a free agent at the end of the year. The Marlins are still budget conscious and will be willing to sell high on Garcia before they lose him next year without getting anything in return.
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Even though the Marlins made the playoffs last year (thanks to the expanded format), they are still a couple years away from seriously contending. They’d be happy to flip Garcia for a guy with more years of team control. Say, Ryne Harper or Austin Voth. Players with big league experience who have struggled some, though have potential and may just need a change of scenery.
Bacus pitched in 46 games last year at Triple-A Fresno out of the bullpen in the hitter friendly Pacific Coast League.
His pitching coach there was Brad Holman, now the pitching coordinator in player development for the Nationals.
“It’s a great success story,” Holman told Federal Baseball from Fredericksburg on Friday. “He just goes about his business as a professional. He finally bought into who he is. He learned to pitch with what he’s got.”
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A ninth-round draft pick, Bacus began his pro career in the Arizona League with Oakland in 2012.
After he was traded to the Nationals, he made it to Double-A Harrisburg for the first time in 2015 and he also spent part of 2016-19 in the Eastern League.
Bacus reached Triple-A for the first time last season, and was 5-5 with an ERA of 3.58.
“He worked really hard to be here,” Martinez said Friday. “He threw the ball well. He threw the ball well in Spring Training in March. We liked his stuff. He worked really hard during this whole Fredericksburg deal, and we thought he was ready to come up here and help us. As you can see he threw the ball exceptionally well, we liked what we saw. Hopefully he continues to do that and helps us win games.”
The Orioles won 6-2 to finish the suspended game on Friday. Since it was a home game for the Nationals, the victory gave the Orioles a three-game sweep against the Nats on the road for the first time since 2015.
And despite an injury to Starlin Castro and bullpen woes, Bacus was one of the few bright spots on a damp Friday night in Charm City.
“As you can see, he threw ground balls. But he’s got a good sinker, he’s got a really good slider/curveball, and he uses all his pitches,” Martinez said. “For a guy that came up for the first time, as you can tell, he knows who he is. He shook Yan Gomes off quite a few times to get to the pitch that he wanted to throw, that he felt comfortable throwing, and that’s good to see.”