Garza: Cubs fans should show Soriano some respect

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Garza: Cubs fans should show Soriano some respect

The television cameras were peeling away from Matt Garzas locker late Monday night when he was asked a question about Alfonso Soriano.

Garza spit out almost 200 words in 68 seconds while defending his teammate. That shows you what they think of the 136 million man inside that clubhouse.

Some 48 hours after the boos rang out at Wrigley Field, there was no doubt about this one. Soriano hammered a ball 440 feet to straightaway center on the South Side.

The Cubs exploded for a 12-3 victory over the White Sox, and Garza got the win at U.S Cellular Field. But the hyperactive pitcher would much rather talk about Soriano, whos hit all 13 of his homers since May 15, while hobbling around on a bad left knee at the age of 36.

Hes played his tail off and that doesnt get as much respect as it deserves, Garza said. Hes a guy who freaking day in and day out, no matter whats going on with him, hes asking to be in that lineup. When hes not, hes pissed. Thats something the young guys need to look to. The guys a workhorse, man.

Hes going to give it all every time out. I get pissed off when the fans treat him the way they do. Thats ridiculous. The guys doing everything he can.

I love the guy to death, so Ill back him to the end. Hes a great dude (and) I love having him in the lineup. He cares so much about what he does and takes a lot of pride in his craft, and thats a lot of respect right there. He deserves a lot more respect from the fans than what hes getting.

Sorianos eight-year contract a win one for Tribune Co. indulgence that wasnt all on former general manager Jim Hendry remains a lightning rod for a 23-42 team.

All the anger and frustration came pouring out on Saturday night, when Soriano blasted a rocket line drive at Boston Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks.

Soriano stood at home plate with the bat in his hands while Middlebrooks dropped the ball and barely moved out of the box before the throw to first.

When you give somebody the amount of money they give him, fans expect him to be 28 forever, Garza said. Im sorry, but time catches up, and for this guy to still be doing what he does, thats amazing. Its outstanding.

Not a lot of guys deserve trying to keep doing what he does. Theres very few, and the few that do it, theyre well-respected, and this guy catches grief.

They need to stop seeing what they see and just look at the man himself.

For the record, Sorianos boss had no problem with that split-second reaction. Like a smooth politician, Cubs president Theo Epstein triangulated his position.

Its one of those things in baseball where its hard from the stands to see exactly what happened on a certain play, Epstein said. I like that our fans hold our players accountable, to play hard and play the game the right way. But I also think its going to be hard to sort of be on the right side of the line every time.

Our fans know, because theyve watched Sori play all year, that hes been hustling from Opening Day on, giving a great effort. So it was an unfortunate break, an unfortunate sort of natural reaction. I think if you asked our fans to grade out Soris hustle on a whole this year, he would get very high marks, as he would from us.

But theres little doubt that Epstein wouldnt mind chipping in to unload Sorianos contract, which runs through 2014 and still has more than 45 million remaining.

Soriano stretched and rode the bike to keep his body warm, again showing that he could be an intriguing designated hitter, the spot where hes batting .387 with seven homers in 23 career games.

Covered in sweat, Soriano was still wearing weightlifting gloves when he walked back toward his locker, the end of another day in the big leagues.

I feel great, Soriano said. Big win tonight for us. Im happy.

Cubs' Carl Edwards Jr. looks to follow in Mariano Rivera's footsteps

Cubs' Carl Edwards Jr. looks to follow in Mariano Rivera's footsteps

Carl Edwards Jr. couldn't dream up a better pitcher to try to emulate than Mariano Rivera.

Not for a young right-hander who is still getting used to being a reliever with a cutter as his bread and butter pitch.

After picking up his first career save late in 2016, Edwards mentioned how he has been watching video of Rivera. At the Cubs Convention earlier this month, Edwards name-dropped Rivera again in response to a fan question and went into more detail with exactly what he's aiming to accomplish by watching Rivera tape.

Let's be clear: Mariano Rivera is inimitable. He's a once-in-a-lifetime talent and there almost assuredly will never be a better closer in Major League Baseball.

But Edwards knows that. 

"He's great. He's a Hall of Famer," Edwards said. "He goes out there like he has the world in the palm of his hand. He's very competitive; I've never seen him back down. That's one [takeaway] for myself — I'm gonna go out and never back down.

"I don't really get into trying to be like him. I just look more into how he goes about his business. That's something that I can control — how I go about my business."

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Cubs coach Mike Borzello was there with Rivera in 1997 when the now-legendary cutter was born.

It's not fair to compare Edwards' cutter to one of the greatest pitches ever, but his version is pretty nasty in its own right:

The Cubs are still searching for long-term answers in the rotation, but don't have any intentions of moving Edwards back to a role as a starter.

Like Edwards, Rivera began his career as a starting pitcher coming up through the Yankees system. But Edwards actually has a leg up on baseball's all time saves leader: Edwards' first save came in his age 24 season while Rivera didn't tally his first save until age 26 in New York.

Edwards also struck out 13 batters per nine innings in 2016 while Rivera never posted eye-popping whiff totals (a career 8.2 K/9 rate).

As Edwards gets set for what he and the Cubs hope will be his first full season in the big leagues in 2017, his maturation will be important in an age of baseball where relief pitchers have never been more valued.

Rivera pitched in the playoffs nearly every year, routinely working more than one inning and posting ridiculous postseason numbers: 0.70 ERA, 0.759 WHIP and 42 saves while taking home the World Series MVP in 1999 and ALCS MVP in 2003.

The Cubs hope Edwards will be pitching in the postseason on a regular basis, too.

For now, the 25-year-old is still reveling in the glory following the 2016 Cubs championship.

He served as honorary drummer at the Carolina Panthers game in November.

"That was pretty amazing. That's a highlight of my offseason," Edwards said.

He grew up as a Pittsburgh Steelers fan despite being a South Carolina native, but Edwards said he did get a pair of Cam Newton cleats to wear for 2017 when he and Cubs teammates like Addison Russell or Matt Szczur throw the football around in the outfield to get loose.

Edwards was also blown away by the reception from Cubs fans at the Convention — "This is my third year and every year as been better" — but still hasn't fully wrapped his mind around the ending of the 108-year drought.

"Everything happened so quick," he said. "Hopefully in the next couple weeks when I have a break, I can sit down and soak it all in."

Vote for this week's High School Lites Viewers' Choice Game of the Week

Vote for this week's High School Lites Viewers' Choice Game of the Week

Who wants it more?

We are putting High School Lites, Chicagoland’s top prep sports show, in the hands of area basketball fans in our “Viewers’ Choice Game of the Week.” Fans will get the chance to pick one game that the @CSNPreps crew will cover on Friday night. We will send our cameras to the game that gets the most votes; highlights of that game will appear on that night’s “High School Lites” broadcast at 11:00pm. The show also live streams at csnchicago.com. High School Lites will also have broadcast replays at 7:30am and 8:30am the following Saturday. This week, for the first time ever in our “Viewers’ Choice” poll, we will have girls basketball as our focus:

Warren at Lake Forest, 7:00pm

Glenbrook South at Maine South, 7:00pm

Vernon Hills at Maine West, 7:30pm

Poll opens Monday at 12:00pm and closes Thursday at 4:00pm. Here is what fans need to do to vote:

**Follow @CSNPreps on Twitter.

**Note the “pinned Tweet” atop the @CSNPreps feed. Vote for the game you want us to cover.

**Spread the word! 

We will make an announcement on @CSNPreps just after 4pm Thursday with the official results of which game will be covered. And as a reminder, be sure to follow @CSNPreps for updates on the “Viewers’ Choice Game of the Week,” along with other basketball news, scores and highlights this season.