The team announced Garcia's unconditional release on the deadline for him to be put on the major league roster -- which would have triggered a $1.25 million guaranteed salary.
"They said they didn't want to pick it up. I have to go," said Garcia, who started Game 4 of last year's NL division series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The 37-year-old right-hander was cut despite a strong outing Sunday, when he limited the New York Mets to an unearned run and two hits over 5 1-3 innings. He was 1-1 with a 4.76 ERA in five spring training starts.
With Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy out for the season, and Mike Minor on the disabled list through at least mid-April as he comes back from a sore shoulder, the Braves decided to bolster their rotation depth with Harang, who was signed to a one-year deal worth $1 million. He can earn an additional $1 million in bonuses under his deal with Atlanta: $250,000 each for 10, 15, 20 and 25 starts, or $250,000 apiece for 30, 35, 40 and 45 relief appearances.
The 35-year-old went 5-12 with a 5.40 ERA during a 2013 season split between Seattle and the New York Mets. He was released from a minor league contract by Cleveland earlier Monday after going 2-0 with a 2.00 ERA in nine innings for the Indians during spring training.
"It's a fluid situation," Braves general manager Frank Wren said.
The Opening Day rotation will likely consist of Julio Teheran, Alex Wood, rookie David Hale and Harang, with non-roster invitee Gus Schlosser also a possibility. Ervin Santana, signed late in spring training to a $14.1 million, one-year contract after Medlen and Beachy were injured, is set to join the rotation during the second week of the season after building up arm strength.
Gavin Floyd, coming back from elbow surgery, could be ready by the end of April along with Minor.
Minor is scheduled to make his first appearance of spring training Saturday in an exhibition at Rome, Ga., against a Braves minor league squad. Floyd is to pitch for the first time Friday in a minor league game.
"Our rotation depth will change drastically in a few weeks and that was part of our decision," said Wren, who insisted that cutting Garcia wasn't financially motivated.
Garcia, who has won 156 games, was visibly shaken.
"I want to pitch, but not going to the minor leagues," he said. "I come here and try the best I can. I threw yesterday the way I want to pitch and they decided to go the other way. ... They made a decision, and I got to go with it."
The team trimmed its active roster to 29 players by optioning left-hander Ryan Buchter and outfielders Jose Constanza and Joey Terdoslavich to Triple-A Gwinnett, and reassigning infielders Tyler Greene and Tommy La Stella to the International League team.
The demotion of Buchter left another non-roster pitcher, Ian Thomas, as the second left-hander in the bullpen behind Luis Avilan.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.