‘Plantain power’: Cubs’ Robel Garcia delivers mammoth HR, near cycle in first big-league start

The 26-year-old rookie tripled, singled and homered off the batter’s eye in center field in the Cubs’ 11-3 victory over the Pirates.

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Chicago Cubs v Pittsburgh Pirates

Garcia in the dugout after his home run in the sixth.

Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

PITTSBURGH – Before the Cubs’ 11-3 victory over the Pirates on Thursday, rookie Robel Garcia was asked where all of his power came from this year.

“The Dominican,” he said.

His interpreter for the occasion, teammate Pedro Strop, elaborated/translated:

“It’s plantain power.”

Whatever he wants to call it and wherever it came from, it left a mark on the Pirates in Garcia’s first career big-league start.

Specifically, it left a mark on the green batter’s eye behind the Pirates’ shrub sculpture beyond the center-field wall, where he hit his sixth-inning home run on a day he also tripled and singled.

“It’s a lot of big emotions,” Garcia said through Strop. “I don’t have the words to describe how big it is. I’m still thinking about it.”

Garcia, 26, never played higher than Class A until the Cubs signed him on a flyer after watching his Italian national team play an exhibition game in Arizona last fall. After being released from the Indians’ organization, he played independent ball and in the Italian professional leagues the last five years.

“I was surprised to get this -opportunity that quick,” said Garcia, who hit 21 home runs in 72 games combined at Class AA and AAA before being called up -Wednesday.

Delayed regrets?

Second baseman Addison Russell might have had regrets, after all, the day after a mental mistake helped lead to a blown lead in the ninth inning.

“We’ve talked about it,” said manager Joe Maddon, who had a chat with Russell after the game and with infield coach Brian Butterfield. “I did, and then Butter did again [Thursday] morning.”

With the tying run at third, the winning run at second and one out, Maddon kept the infielders back with instructions to take the out at first unless the ball was hit sharply right at them. Then they were to throw home.

Russell, who said after the game he was going to the plate all the way, made a late, wide throw home off a slow bouncer to his left. He said before talking to Maddon that he had no regrets and would do it again.

The Pirates tied it on that play and won it on an ensuing sacrifice fly.

Alzolay’s schedule

Pitching prospect Adbert Alzolay, who made two starts and a long-relief appearance during a 13-day debut, is scheduled to start Saturday for Class AAA Iowa.

Assuming Alzolay starts five days later for Iowa, that would put him on schedule to return to the rotation July 16 after the break, when the Cubs are expected to need a fifth pitcher to fill injured Cole Hamels’ spot.

Alzolay also is expected to participate in the All-Star Futures Game on Sunday.

This and that

Reliever Carl Edwards Jr. (left upper back) was expected to make a second minor-league rehab appearance Thursday night for Iowa, after which he was to be evaluated for a possible return from the injured list to the Cubs’ bullpen.

• Hot-hitting right-fielder Jason -Heyward hasn’t played since Tuesday, when he banged his hip and back on a diving catch. Maddon said Heyward is improving.

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