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Twins in 'final stages' of acquiring veteran lefty from Braves

Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Jaime Garcia (54) pitches against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the sixth inning at SunTrust Park. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS -- Determined to improve a starting rotation that ranks among the worst in the American League, the surprising Twins were closing in on a trade Thursday night for veteran left-hander Jaime Garcia, according to a person with direct knowledge.

Garcia, who recently turned 31, has gone 3-7 with a 4.33 earned-run average in 17 starts for the Atlanta Braves. Due roughly $4.79 million the rest of the season on an expiring contract, Garcia would move into a rotation that  already has lost Phil Hughes and lefty Hector Santiago due to injury.

The Braves would pick up less than half of Garcia’s remaining obligation, the person with direct knowledge said, but that figure was still being discussed along with which player or players the Twins would surrender. Medical reports were still being evaluated as well, but the deal was said to be “very close to final.”

While Hughes is dealing with a recurrence of thoracic outlet syndrome in his throwing shoulder, Garcia made it back from 2014 surgery for the same ailment. He also underwent shoulder surgery to repair labrum and rotator-cuff issues in 2013 while with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Garcia would become the second member of the Braves’ first-half rotation to land with the Twins, joining 44-year-old Bartolo Colon, who cleared waivers and signed a minor-league deal with the Twins on July 7. While Garcia is making $12 million this year, the Braves remain responsible for all but the pro-rated minimum salary toward the $12.5 million they guaranteed Colon last offseason.

Colon, who failed to record an out in the fifth inning Tuesday, is tentatively scheduled to make a second start on Monday at Dodger Stadium. In addition to Colon, Ervin Santana and Jose Berrios, the Twins’ current rotation also includes rookie left-hander Adalberto Mejia and right-hander Kyle Gibson.

While the Twins have received just two quality starts in their past nine tries, Garcia turned in eight quality starts in a span of 10 outings through mid-June. He then went on a four-start downturn that saw him post a 9.41 earned run average with an 0-2 record, .988 combined on-base/slugging percentage allowed and five home runs in 22 innings.

Garcia, who has seen his nine-inning strikeout rate dip to 6.88, rebounded to allow one earned run in seven innings on Sunday in a win over the Arizona Diamondbacks.

A native of Mexico with a career groundball rate of 56 percent, he previously pitched parts of eight seasons for the St. Louis Cardinals, winning 13 games in back-to-back seasons at the start of the decade. He posted a 2.43 ERA in 20 starts as recently as 2015 before slumping to a 4.67 ERA with a 10-13 mark last season with the Cardinals, who traded him to the Braves for two minor leaguers last offseason.

Garcia has made seven postseason starts, including two solid World Series outings (1.80 ERA) in 2011 against Thad Levine’s Texas Rangers. Levine was hired as the Twins’ general manager last October after 11 seasons with the Rangers.

Garcia worked seven shutout innings in an eventual 2-1 loss for the Cardinals in Game 2 that year, then worked three innings of two-run ball in a Game 6 start that the Cardinals won 10-9 in 11 innings.

Garcia angered the Cardinals with his quick decision to undergo TOS surgery during the 2014 season.

“He’s been a hard guy to count on,” Cardinals GM John Mozeliak said at the time of Garcia. “He’s been a hard guy to keep on the field.”

Twins starters have posted a 4.91 cumulative ERA, which ranks 24th in the majors and third-worst in the AL, ahead of only the Baltimore Orioles and Chicago White Sox.

While the Twins, who recently took two of three from the New York Yankees, remain a half game behind in both the AL Central and AL wild-card standings, the Braves have fallen nine games out of the wild-card hunt in the National League.

The teams previously matched up on a deal in May for utility man Danny Santana that brought the Twins minor-league lefty Kevin Chapman, who has since been released.

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