JUPITER, Fla. -- If first impressions count for anything, first baseman Luis Garcia's six-year minor league career may soon be over.
Garcia hit two home runs in an intrasquad game Tuesday as the St. Louis Cardinals continued to prepare for their exhibition opener Thursday against the New York Mets.
Sure, both homers were off coaches, who threw from in front of the mound, some 50 feet from home plate, not the customary 60 feet, 6 inches.
"But everybody hit off coaches," manager Tony La Russa said. "The 'pitchers' were close but we are just trying to get the hitters in the habit of swinging the bat." And Garcia "had some great swings," La Russa said.
Garcia, 23, a native of Guadalajara, Mexico, was acquired from Boston in December, along with two other minor leaguers, infielder Dustin Brisson and outfielder Rick Asadorian, for starting pitcher Dustin Hermanson in a move that allowed St. Louis to unload some salary.
While Garcia is on the 40-man roster, neither Brisson nor Asadorian is here yet. They are expected to arrive with the other Cardinal minor leaguers Sunday.
"I'm just trying to do my job, do what I have to do," Garcia said. "It was an intrasquad game. I was just trying to relax and enjoy myself."
Garcia was originally signed as a pitcher. But after arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder, he lost arm strength. In three seasons he had a combined 3-5 record and a 3.38 earned run average in 29 games, four as a starter, but never rose above the rookie league level.
Since becoming an everyday player, Garcia has hit over .300 in two of his last three seasons, including .303 in 65 games at Class A Sarasota and .310 in 63 games at Double-A Trenton last summer. In those 128 games he hit 26 homers and drove in 89 runs.
Also homering Tuesday were Albert Pujols, last year's NL rookie of the year, and Stubby Clapp. Pujols also tripled.
"He's going to be something special," La Russa said. Pujols hit .329 with 37 homers and 130 RBIs last season while playing a number of different positions.