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Galarraga works his way into majors

Galarraga works his way into majors
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Armando Galarraga seemed to come from nowhere last year, when he won a surprising 13 games to lead the Detroit Tigers in victories as a rookie.

But he knows the tough road he traveled to reach his dreams, remembering the pitfalls of elbow injuries and Tommy John surgery that cost him two seasons, and the trials of being pushed aside in the Montreal Expos and Texas Rangers organizations.

"There is a Latin saying," said Galarraga, a native of Caracas, Venezuela. "It is: 'The same person who goes up, is the same person who goes down.' That means you are the same person through the ups and downs, and that you should stay with your goals."

He made it to the majors because of a tremendous drive to succeed and a willingness to pay the price.

Galarraga is 2-0 with a 0.68 ERA going into tonight's start against the Los Angeles Angels and has struck out 13 while walking just three in 13 innings.His new pitching coach, Rick Knapp, has taken to Galarraga, a self-starter if ever there was one.

"Oh, my God, he's a pro," Knapp said. "He has a very businesslike approach and a real good routine. Armando is very intent on having a purpose."

Galarraga, 27, said that approach is second nature and comes from his parents. His father, Jose (known as Pepe), is a biologist and his mother, Mariza, is a chemistry teacher.

"My parents both have routines," Galarraga said. "They are very organized, and so I try to always have a plan."

He studies videotape of upcoming opponents on a daily basis and is devoted to a regular schedule of throwing, running and weightlifting in the four days between starts. After facing opponents, he makes notes.

"I am going to throw my sliders and sinker, fastball and changeup to everybody," Galarraga said. "I am going to pitch my game. I am going to keep the ball down, change speeds and still throw the slider behind in the count.

"But what I look at on videotape is how hitters handle different situations. Are they aggressive or not? When do they pull the ball? Things like that."

He's constantly looking for an edge. What allows him to pitch so effectively is a devastating slider thrown two different ways.

"Hitters can't pick up his slider," Knapp said. "It's nearly indefensible. Armando throws it 86 to 87 mph, and it breaks real hard. That's tough to protect against for a hitter."

The Expos became the Washington Nationals and traded him and two others to the Rangers for Alfonso Soriano on Dec. 12, 2005. But Galarraga's elbow problems persisted, and he wasn't totally right until four years after the elbow surgery in 2003.

"It cost me two straight years," Galarraga said. "I don't know why my elbow got hurt, but I know now that the main thing for me is just to be healthy."

Galarraga said the Rangers traded him to Detroit before spring training in 2008 -- during his honeymoon with wife Kristen -- just months after his elbow began feeling strong again. The Tigers swapped minor league outfielder Michael Hernandez, who was out of Texas' farm system within months.

Detroit called Galarraga up two weeks into last season to replace the injured Dontrelle Willis.

"Virgil Vasquez is who I expected them to call up," Galarraga said. "But my manager in Toledo (Larry Parrish) said, 'No, Armando, they want you.' "

His face still lights up at the thought. One short year later, Tigers manager Jim Leyland selected him to start the home opener. He beat the Rangers, 15-2, allowing one run in seven innings.

"That was an honor," Galarraga said. "And that it came against Texas made it a little better."

He laughed heartily.

"It is really good when your dream comes true," Galarraga said. "I love this. I take it one game at a time, and don't think too much about anything else. You do your job. That's what is important."

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: April 22, 2009

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