Maybe his answer was all one could expect but it hardly matched the reply one would want.

"We'll see."

Saturday morning's swirl around the downtown Hyatt brought Jaime Garcia to a fourth-floor meeting room. The Cardinals lefthander seemed a little clipped, a little impatient. Garcia knew what the day's topic would be but maybe he thought it would wait longer than the first question.

How's the shoulder?

The left shoulder, to be exact.

The area of his anatomy that has defined Garcia's relationship with the club since he notified manager Mike Matheny of elbow discomfort that led to a brief shutdown following a May 26 start. Garcia returned to make an abortive two-inning start on June 5 before informing Matheny that shoulder tightness prevented him from comfortable repeating mechanics. Garcia next pitched on Aug. 19, included six quality starts among his last nine regular-season appearances, then left Game 2 of the division series after two innings.

Three orthopedics suggested Garcia undergo surgery. A fourth, Dr. James Andrews, promoted rest and a strengthening program. Garcia chose the minority opinion.

"I'm not even thinking about last year. I'm thinking about 2013," Garcia said. "I'm excited about this year. We'll see."

But to look at Garcia's 2013 without using his 2012 as context is an impossibility. Arm issues became a source of personal frustration and some medical intrigue. His availability for April is written in pencil rather than pen. More than three months since he last took the ball, neither Garcia nor the club can offer any guarantees.