BRADENTON, Fla. - Former Pirates All-Star second baseman Carlos Garcia was named the seventh manager in Altoona Curve history back in January. On Monday, 11 days before he and his team will arrive in Altoona, Garcia chatted with me for a few minutes about his time as a player and minor league manager in the Pittsburgh organization in this Q&A.
Q: You were coming up through the Pirates' minor league system as a player during the last golden era in the early 1990s. Do you see some similarities in what you saw in the minor leagues then to what you're seeing now?
A: Definitely. You can see the job the scouting department is doing and the talent they are bringing to the table. Now, it's for us to develop the talent and put it in Pittsburgh. The greatest years in Pittsburgh haven't happened yet. These kids have the tremendous potential to become a great team again.
Q: Everybody's talking about the fourth and fifth starter here in major league camp because it's assumed A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez and James McDonald will man the first three spots. The Pirates are hoping two spots will be filled soon by guys named Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon. Explain the talents you've been able to see from them down here this spring.
A: Tremendous talent. Right now, we're talking about needing number four and five starters. In the future, [Cole and Taillon] are going to be the one-two punch. They are the faces of the organization, and we're looking forward to them making an impact in the future.
Q: Stan Kyles joins the organization as pitching coach for the Curve, and you know the rest of your staff from working with them before in hitting coach Ryan Long, trainer Mike Zalno and strength and conditioning coach Ricky White. What are your impressions of them?
A: Kyles brings a lot of experience. He's a guy who's been coaching at the Triple-A level and in the big leagues [with the Brewers]. I had the opportunity to work with Ryan Long my first year as a manager [in Bradenton in 2011], and I can only say great things about the guy. He works very well with the young players. He's been doing a tremendous job for the guys who have been in Altoona. Mike Zalno is a veteran of the organization, and he does a great job for us. Ricky is a guy we can count on to get the guys in shape to be ready to play.
Q: Working with the players, do you think it's important that as a manager you can speak from your own major league experience about what it's going to take for them to get to that level?
A: Well, they know I've been there. They know I did the work to be able to create the opportunity to play at the big league level. They know that I did what it takes on the way there [in the minors] to collect a lot of experience. For me, from past experience as a player, if I had a coach who can share that kind of [major league] experience with me that would be really beneficial in my approach to get to the big leagues. I'm looking forward to showing them the sacrifice and the work they've got to put in - day in and day out - to get to the big leagues.
Q: How has being of Latin-American descent helped you in working with players from that part of the world?
A: Definitely, it helps a lot when you have somebody of the same background. The communication barrier is going to be less difficult, and I'm happy to help with that.
Q: On the personal side, what's your favorite music? What do you like to listen to?
A: I enjoy any type of music. Salsa. Meringue. Where I come from [Venezuela], that's something that I really enjoy, too.
Q: What's your favorite movie?
A: "The Godfather" (laughter).
Q: What was your favorite big league town to visit when you played?
A: I loved New York, but I really enjoyed playing at Wrigley Field in Chicago. That was my favorite place. The fans are really close to the action and interact with the players, and the day games definitely helped where you can enjoy the rest of the city after the game. My family, it was one of their favorite trips over there. We had a great time in Chicago.
Rob Egan is general manager of the Curve and is writing a column this week during his visit to spring training.