MESA, Ariz. – Matt Garza will undergo an MRI to determine the extent of his lat muscle strain, leaving the Cubs in a holding pattern, waiting to see what the next steps are and if he’ll be ready to open the season.
The Cubs aren’t overly concerned, but they do understand how unpredictable these types of injuries can be.
“That’s the challenge,” general manager Jed Hoyer said Monday. “That’s why we need to figure out exactly the severity. They are lingering-type injuries, the kind where you have to wait quite awhile. You don’t want to bring a guy back too early and have him re-injure it. So you do end up being pretty patient.”
Garza’s right elbow was already an X-factor. This could possibly delay his start to the season. Hoyer and team president Theo Epstein were among the Cubs officials watching him throw live batting practice on Sunday at Fitch Park, eager to see how he responded.
Sidelined with a stress reaction in his right elbow, Garza hadn’t faced a hitter since July 21 last year. He threw 20 pitches – halfway through his scheduled session – before stepping off the mound, stretching his left side and coming to the conclusion that it didn’t make sense to push it.
“The good news is his arm felt really strong,” Hoyer said. “He was throwing really well. It’s unfortunate, for sure, and it’s going to set him back a little bit. But we’re still really confident.”
With six weeks until Opening Day, time is on Garza’s side. The Cubs also have enough rotation depth to stay afloat. With Scott Baker taking it slow after Tommy John surgery, the starting five could look like this: Jeff Samardzija; Edwin Jackson; Scott Feldman; Travis Wood; and Carlos Villanueva.
The Cubs still need to gather more information before jumping to that conclusion. One reference point is Ryan Dempster, who spent three-plus weeks on the disabled list last summer with what the club called lat tightness. Hoyer says it’s too early to tell with Garza.
“We’re not going to rush this guy, that’s for sure,” Hoyer said. “I’d love to know why these injuries have cropped up. I feel like it happens to a couple players on every team every year. Better in mid-February than mid-March.”