It's Majors or retirement for veteran righty Garcia

It's Majors or retirement for veteran righty Garcia

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Instead of simply attempting to prepare for the upcoming season like he did during most of the Spring Trainings he has experienced during his long career, Freddy Garcia realizes he is potentially competing for his career every time he steps on the mound during this year's Grapefruit League season.

Garcia's bid to earn an Opening Day spot in Atlanta's bullpen or starting rotation has improved, as he has not allowed an opponent to reach base through the first five innings he has completed during the Grapefruit League season. The 37-year-old right-hander worked three perfect innings in Monday's 6-2 loss to the Mets.

"This year is different," Garcia said. "I need to pitch good if I'm going to make the team."

The Minor League contract Garcia signed with the Braves in January includes a clause that allows him to opt out of the contract if he has not been assured a Major League roster spot by March 25.

Garcia is willing to be used as a starter or a reliever. But he said he would retire before returning to the Minor League level like he did last year when the Orioles took him off their 40-man roster in June. He returned to the Majors shortly after being traded to the Braves in late August and ended up starting Game 4 of the National League Division Series against the Dodgers.

"I just don't want to go back to the Minors," Garcia said. "I did it last year for however many months and it's not fun."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.