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How many starts can the Cardinals count on from Jaime Garcia?

Cardinals pitcher Jaime Garcia (right) throws a bullpen session at spring training Thursday. AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

JUPITER, Fla. -- The St. Louis Cardinals drafted Jaime Garcia out of Sharyland High School in Mission, Texas, but by now he should have an honorary orthopedics degree. Garcia, 29, has been through all the major arm injuries that can end a pitcher’s career.

Tommy John elbow reconstruction. Check. 2008. Major shoulder surgery. Check. 2013. Surgery to repair thoracic outlet syndrome. Check. 2014.

Last season was a relative walk in the park for Garcia, who missed only 12 starts with a groin injury. If he could ever manage to avoid catastrophic injuries, he might one day be recognized for the pitcher he is. With a career 3.31 ERA, the left-hander’s similarity scores on Baseball Reference include Stephen Strasburg, Dallas Keuchel and Hisashi Iwakuma.

No wonder the Cardinals exercised his $11.5 million option shortly after last season ended. In his 20 healthy starts last year, Garcia had a 2.43 ERA.

Garcia is hesitant to discuss his lengthy injury history these days, saying, “The past is the past. I’m focused on this year.” That reticence could stem from some tension with the team in the past over some of those injuries. General manager John Mozeliak wasn’t thrilled with how Garcia announced he was having thoracic outlet surgery in 2014. The team wanted Garcia to try rehabbing the injury first.

“He’s been a hard guy to count on,” Mozeliak was quoted as saying at the time.

And yet here they are, counting on him again. Garcia’s fastball tops out in the low-90s these days, but he gets remarkable natural movement on his pitches. Manager Mike Matheny compared trying to catch Garcia to catching a knuckleball pitcher. His primary off-speed pitches are a cutter and changeup.

Garcia said he feels like he’s in a good place this spring.

“All the tough times I’ve gone through, whether it’s injuries or just so many downs and stuff, I’m at a good place spiritually,” he said. “I’m preparing, working hard, doing all the little things right. I’m trying to be a good teammate, staying on top of things. It’s definitely what you learn through tough times, but it’s what life is about. This game’s about failure and it’s about making adjustments.”