Jon Garland found himself in a no-out, bases-loaded jam early in a tight game.
Nervous? Not in the least.
Garland relished the challenge of trying to escape it. He simply enjoyed being out there again because the thought definitely crossed Garland's mind more than once in the nearly two years it took to recover from shoulder surgery: He just might never pitch in a big league game again.
Garland threw six sharp innings as the Colorado Rockies beat the San Diego Padres 6-3 on Saturday night, soaking up the moment in his first start since June 1, 2011. The righty had season-ending labrum and rotator cuff surgery a month later — a procedure that also kept him sidelined for 2012.
"A week, a month out of surgery, when you can't even pick your arm up — you feel terrible," said Garland, who earned his first win since April 20, 2011, when he was with the Los Angeles Dodgers. "It could be gone in an instant. It really can be. I've always appreciated where I'm at."
Garland (1-0) was cruising along until the fourth when the Padres loaded the bases with nobody out. A pressure-packed situation that Garland was actually glad to face. It was as good of test as any, and he passed it with ease. Garland escaped by only giving up one run as he enticed Cameron Maybin to roll into a 4-6-3 double play to end the threat.
"It doesn't bother me to pitch with guys on anymore," Garland said. "To minimize that damage there, just give up the one run, that was huge."
Especially with this potent lineup behind him.
Michael Cuddyer led the way, finishing the night 3 for 4 and driving in four runs. His two-run homer in the seventh sealed the Rockies fourth straight win. Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki each added RBI singles.
"I said it early on — if they stay healthy, this is a lineup you have to be careful of," Garland said. "I've pitched against most of these guys in here — I know what they're capable of doing."
Tyson Ross (0-1) found out as well in his Padres debut after being acquired in the offseason from Oakland. He struggled with his control as he lasted four innings, allowing three runs — two earned — and walking four.
"I tried to get a little too fine sometimes," Ross said.
All in all, Padres manager Bud Black saw positive signs in his performance. Namely, the velocity on Ross' fastball.
"What we saw tonight was everything that we saw in the spring," Black said. "I like the fact that he didn't do anything different from spring until now, which is great. He competes."
Carlos Quentin had two doubles and scored twice for the Padres, who are 1-4 to start the season.
Garland attempted a comeback with Seattle as a non-roster invitee this spring before being released. The Rockies acquired Garland off waivers from the Mariners on March 24.
He was efficient and effective all night, mixing in a change with an 88 mph fastball before being lifted for a pinch hitter after throwing 75 pitches.
"There's a lot to be proud of for Jon there, going out there and competing like that, escaping some trouble like he did," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "A lot like Jeff Francis, Garland knows how to manipulate the at-bat, navigate a lineup, minimize the damage. He's a pro and there's some peace of mind with him out there — he's been around and doesn't get flustered when you get a little traffic going."
Relievers Matt Belisle and Rex Brothers bridged the gap to closer Rafael Betancourt, who pitched a scoreless ninth for his third save.
Colorado broke open a close game in the fifth when Gonzalez, Tulowitzki and Cuddyer strung together three straight RBI singles.
Although Cuddyer had a big night, he appeared to injure his left wrist diving for a ball in the eighth. But he returned to the field the next inning and the Rockies later said the wrist was sore but fine.
"Cuddy, he's certainly a special guy," Weiss said. "He does everything the right way. Competes every day, every minute he's out there. Just plays the game right. He's a great example for anybody who watches baseball."
NOTES: RHP Edinson Volquez (0-1) will take the mound Sunday against RHP Jhoulys Chacin and the Rockies. ... San Diego has lost four straight at Coors Field, dating back to last season. ... The Rockies will play Sunday home games an hour later (2:10 p.m.) this season, to give the players more rest. "Players knowing they're going to get another hour of sleep? It felt like it would be beneficial," said Bill Geivett, the Rockies' assistant general manager. ... The Rockies have 11 homers through five games. ... Colorado made a move earlier in the day as the team traded C Ramon Hernandez and cash to the Los Angeles Dodgers for RHP Aaron Harang. The team then designated Harang for assignment. ... The last time Colorado started the season 4-1 was 2011.