Garza pushing to return this season

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Garza pushing to return this season

Matt Garza compared pitching to breathing on his Twitter account, so theres no doubt that hes going to push to return this season, even with his team so far out of contention.

But the Cubs are going to be cautious with Garza, whos sidelined indefinitely with a stress reaction in the back of his right elbow.

It sucks, man, theyre not letting me throw a ball, Garza said Thursday at Wrigley Field. Its not fun to come here and sit down. Yeah, I get to work out and ride a bike and watch a ballgame. But its still not what I like doing. I like being out there taking control of my game and being able to do what I get paid to do.

Garza almost guaranteed that hed return to the rotation after cutting loose during a bullpen session at Dodger Stadium last weekend. But he still felt stiff and further tests in Chicago convinced the Cubs to shut him down.

I just feel out of it, Garza said. I dont like not playing. Im not here to just watch. This is the toughest thing for me to face, not being able to do anything, like holding back from going out there and wanting to throw. Thats why I fought so long with them.

They just said theyve had enough and lets see what else is in there. Its nothing bad. Its just the doc said a little rest and (lets) just get it over with.

As a comparison, the Cubs have used reliever Blake Parker, who went on the disabled list with a similar injury on June 6 and just began his minor-league rehab assignment this week.

Garza last pitched on July 21 in St. Louis, which effectively killed his trade market before the deadline. General manager Jed Hoyer said Garza will likely be a Cub in 2013, the final year of club control after contract extension talks earlier this season gained no momentum.

Garza proving hes healthy again this season would appear to help his state of mind, and give the Cubs something to think about over the winter.

If somebody keeps wanting me to play, Im all for it, Garza said. Im not looking ahead to anything. Im just trying to get to where I can get back on the field and start playing. Hopefully, its soon, sooner than later, and Im going to be working my tail off to get it that way.

Morning Update: Cubs pick up win No. 101, Sale leads White Sox past Rays

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Morning Update: Cubs pick up win No. 101, Sale leads White Sox past Rays

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John Lackey sees Cubs lining up for World Series run: ‘It’s all here’

John Lackey sees Cubs lining up for World Series run: ‘It’s all here’

PITTSBURGH — The Cubs have so much going for them, all this blue-chip talent, a clubhouse mix of young players and grizzled veterans, arguably the best manager in the game, an impactful coaching staff and a front office that blends scouting and analytics as well as anyone.

So, no, John Lackey is not at all surprised by the way this clicked into place, 101 wins and counting for the machine built with October in mind.

“Not really,” Lackey said after Tuesday night’s 6-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates. “I had some pretty good offers from other people, and I chose this one for a reason. It’s all here.”

But to win the World Series — and get the jewelry Lackey talks about — you still need some luck, good health and the guts to perform in those Big Boy Games. That reality of randomness and matchups made a pregame announcement some 250 miles away from PNC Park so telling.

Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos tore the ACL in his right knee, ending his MVP-caliber season. The National League East champions will lose a .307 hitter with 22-homer power from the middle of their lineup and a veteran presence for a playoff rotation that will likely be without injured ace Stephen Strasburg (right elbow) in the first round.

“That’s a tough one when you lose your catcher, a guy who’s that significant for the pitching staff,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “Think about the pitching staff — it’s so different when you know the guy back there is your guy and he knows what’s going on. The communication’s different. The trust factor, all that stuff is different.”

[SHOP CUBS: Get your NL Central champions gear right here]

Within that big-picture context, the Cubs survived as Lackey limited the checked-out Pirates (77-80) to one run across five innings in his fifth start since recovering from a strained right shoulder and coming off the disabled list. Maddon then used six different relievers — staying away from Pedro Strop, Hector Rondon and Aroldis Chapman — during a three-hour, 49-minute game that felt more like the Cactus League.

After defecting from the 100-win St. Louis Cardinals team the Cubs bounced out of last year’s playoffs, Lackey finished the regular season at 11-8 with a 3.35 ERA and 188 1/3 innings.

“I’m going to get to 200,” Lackey said.

Beyond wins and losses, Lackey called this season his career best in terms of “those numbers that they’ve made up in the last few years” like WHIP (1.04) and opponents’ OPS (.646) and whatever. And, no, he doesn’t know his WAR, either: “Not even close.”

Yes, the Cubs got the old-school attitude they wanted when they signed Lackey to a two-year, $32 million deal before the winter meetings. For all the talk about the pitching deficit and the New York Mets after their young guns swept the Cubs out of last year’s NL Championship Series, the Cubs are getting their money’s worth with a guy who will turn 38 in October.

The amazing Mets have lost three of those frontline starters — Matt Harvey (thoracic outlet syndrome), Jacob deGrom (nerve damage in his right elbow) and Steven Matz (bone spur in his left elbow) — and are still holding onto the first wild-card spot, which says something about this playoff field.

This doesn’t guarantee anything in October, but the Cubs are just about as close to full strength as they could reasonably hope now. Instead of the silence that would have come with losing an irreplaceable player like Ramos, the sound system in the postgame clubhouse blasted Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre and Notorious B.I.G. after their 101st win.

“Yeah, we lost Dexter (Fowler) for a bit,” Maddon said. “We lost (Kyle) Schwarber all year. Otherwise, when a couple pitchers got banged up, whether you’re talking about Rondon or Strop, I don’t think that our injuries have been as magnified because we’ve covered them pretty well.

“We still had our moments, like everybody else has. But when you get to right now, we’re getting well, and hopefully that trend continues. But to lose somebody of that magnitude for them, that’s got to be difficult.”