Jamie Garcia is the most important member of the starting rotation. He’s the No. 2 starter. He’s the No. 1 question.

Garcia made his 2013 debut Tuesday night against the Arizona Diamondbacks and pitched with precision and grace until suddenly careening into wildness with three consecutive two-out walks in the sixth inning.

Reliever Edward Mujica came in and prevented the emergency from escalating into a crisis, or disaster, by punching out Arizona pinch-hitter Jason Kubel on a called-strike 94 mph fastball on a 3-2 pitch.

Garcia could exhale. All in all it was an encouraging first start of the season for Garcia, who finessed his way to the first win of 2013 for himself and the Cardinals. With Matt Holliday, Pete Kozma and Jon Jay whacking homers, the Cardinals counterattacked for a 6-1 victory after losing Monday’s season opener at Chase Field.

Garcia allowed one run and two hits in 5 2/3 innings, departing with a 3-1 lead but no sorrow. The Cardinals were hoping Garcia would carry the momentum of an excellent spring training into this initial start to remind everyone – and maybe even himself – of how fantastic he can be.

“It starts with Jaime coming out and really doing a nice job,” manager Mike Matheny said in reviewing the win. “Right from the start you could tell he had the good life. ... It was fun to watch him.”

Earlier in the day Matheny had proclaimed, “I just love where he is, all the way around.”

Getting Garcia on track has been a priority for Matheny and the Cardinals. To a man, they’ve been warm and supportive as Garcia prepped for the new season after a difficult 2012.

The manager and players realize they need Garcia to excel. If he does, then this rotation could fly. I believe Garcia is the key to it all.

Staff ace Adam Wainwright is stronger than a year ago. In the category of pure talent, Lance Lynn has the best stuff among the starters. Jake Westbrook will be a ground-ball machine. Rookie Shelby Miller will try to power up the start of his career.