Garza says Cubs aren't 'quitters,' cant worry about the backlash

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Garza says Cubs aren't 'quitters,' cant worry about the backlash

PITTSBURGH Matt Garza prides himself on being a big-game pitcher, someone with enough guts to want the ball in October.

Garzas supposed to be the guy the Cubs count on to shut it down. But he wilted in the 88-degree heat on Sunday at PNC Park, serving up three homers in a 10-4 blowout loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Cubs have now lost 12 straight games. They return home on Memorial Day, a traditional mile marker for a six-month season, buried in last place with the worst record (15-32) in the National League.

Even if Cubs fans didnt expect to see team president Theo Epstein riding on a float down Michigan Avenue this October, they also probably didnt expect it to bottom out this quickly.

We just got to play, Garza said afterward. Yeah, we have great fans. They know the game, but we cant play for the fans right now. We have to play for every guy in here. Every guy has to pull on the same side of the rope.

Its going to kind of test our character as a club right now. Were just going to keep grinding it out. No matter what anybody says, we got to keep whats in here tight, not let it break (us) up.

The last time the Cubs lost this many games in a row a franchise-record 14 to start the 1997 season manager Dale Sveum was playing for the Pirates, Alfonso Soriano was playing in Japan and Starlin Castro was seven years old.

The last time the Cubs won a game, The New York Times hadnt yet brought to light Joe Ricketts political activities, which forced the Cubs board of directors into damage-control mode as they try to secure financing for the Wrigley Field renovation.

Kerry Wood hadnt yet held two retirement press conferences, or eloquently explained away Irrelevant, dude by talking about his baseball mortality, replacing the video of him throwing his hat and glove into the stands with the shot of him hugging his son.

Theres a different psychology to it now. Garza made another wild throw after fielding a sacrifice bunt in the first inning. He now has 10 errors in 40 starts for the Cubs. He had committed six errors in 121 games with the Minnesota Twins and Tampa Bay Rays.

Moments later, Pedro Alvarez put one in the right-field seats, and the Pirates (23-24) got their first three-run homer this season in Game 47. That felt like game over for a Cubs team that has labored to score runs.

My first job is to keep runs off the board, Garza said. Giving up a three-spot in the first doesnt really help anybody. All it does is just build pressure and make guys have to do stuff and then we get uncomfortable.

Garza also surrendered home runs to Andrew McCutchen and Garrett Jones, and his manager wasnt sure why he was throwing changeups.

He just got beat by pitches he shouldnt be throwing people. He got beat by his fourth-best pitch, Sveum said. Ill have to talk to him again. He had a great fastball today and got in those situations against a couple guys (where) velocity gets em. He decided to throw changeups. Its not exactly protocol, or what the game plan was.

Garza (2-3, 4.22 ERA) is looking for a big contract extension, and you thought this was a lineup he could dominate. Figuring it out will be a central theme for the 2012 Cubs, even if you cant put that on a billboard.

Patience is something that a lot of fans dont have, no matter what you go through, Sveum said. Im a huge football fan, and I dont understand the Oakland Raiders losing every game. Thats just kind of the way it is. They want to win, just like we want to win.

Thats just part of every city, especially any city thats as passionate as (Chicago).

Just win, baby is a little catchier than Progress as an organization isnt linear.

But Epstein isnt Al Davis, and this isnt the NFL. It will take years to rebuild the team at Clark and Addison, which is why the front office is so focused on the upcoming amateur draft.

Until then, there will be long, hot days in Pittsburgh, and maybe a sea of empty green seats at Wrigley Field.

Guys in here dont stop, Garza said. Were not quitters. Its gonna turn. Were gonna keep fighting and were gonna catch a little roll soon.

Cubs: The next steps for Kyle Schwarber

Cubs: The next steps for Kyle Schwarber

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – Kyle Schwarber might have been the most dangerous hitter in a World Series lineup that featured the National League MVP plus four more All-Stars. After spending more than six months recovering from major knee surgery. Against Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber and a dominant Cleveland Indians bullpen.

“He’s not going to play winter ball,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said with a perfect deadpan delivery. “We felt like he proved he can hit major-league pitching.”

The Cubs spent Monday at the winter meetings inside the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, continuing their search for pitching on the outskirts of Washington, D.C. The Cubs are so stacked with hitters that manager Joe Maddon could write out a 2017 Opening Day lineup tomorrow and Theo Epstein’s front office would still have Jorge Soler left over as trade bait.

Schwarber could hit second for the defending World Series champs, and his presence would mean more than any player the Cubs could sign as a free agent. The Cubs expect him to be at full strength by spring training, though it’s unclear how much work, if any, he’ll get as a catcher.

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“That’s the hurdle we haven’t really gone over yet,” Hoyer said. “Can he do it? There’s no question he’s going to want to do it. I think he can do it. I think that we have to have discussions about how heavy a workload we put on him in that regard.

“One of the things we talked about even last year before he got hurt was (how) he’s doing full catching drills, running around the outfield, doing stuff hitting. That’s a lot to put on a guy, sort of like playing two ways in football.”

Schwarber, an all-Ohio linebacker in high school, has a run-through-a-brick-wall mentality and doesn’t like to hear about what he can’t do. He wrecked his left knee in an outfield collision in early April and needed a procedure that reconstructed his ACL and repaired his LCL.

It took only two warm-up games in the Arizona Fall League before Schwarber made his dramatic return as the designated hitter at Progressive Field, batting .412 (7-for-17) with a .971 OPS during the World Series. 

The Cubs appear to be set with Willson Contreras and Miguel Montero behind the plate, but Schwarber is the type of baseball gym rat who enjoys breaking down video, giving input for scouting reports and being involved in every pitch.  

“We have to talk through all that stuff,” Hoyer said. “We know what his position’s going to be, so we have to figure out what our position’s going to be. I know he’s going to want to catch.

“But he knows he’s coming in as a left fielder next year. And we have to decide how much of the catching drills (he does).”

Slow start to fourth dooms Bulls in loss to Blazers

Slow start to fourth dooms Bulls in loss to Blazers

With his old teammate Robin Lopez in front of him and his feet at the United Center sign on the floor, Damian Lillard threw caution to the wind as he sensed the end was near.

With redemption on his mind and the Bulls on the ropes, Lillard unleashed a long triple that took the air out of the building with five minutes and pushed the Portland Trailblazers lead to 10.

The Bulls got closer but a few disastrous minutes spelled doom in their 112-110 loss Monday at the United Center, their third defeat in four games as they were without Rajon Rondo, who was suspended for conduct detrimental to the team earlier in the day.

Dwyane Wade scored 34 points with four rebounds and four assists in his return from a one-game rest while Jimmy Butler scored 26 with seven rebounds and five assists but the Bulls shot just 42 percent and committed 15 turnovers, many of them unforced against a defense that isn’t known for stopping opponents.

Lillard hit free throws in the final minute after the Bulls pulled to within three with 18.2 seconds left but his triple was a backbreaker.

It gave the visitors the push they needed after trailing to start the fourth, going on a 13-3 run while the Bulls missed 11 of their 13 shots to start the period, halting a relatively smooth offensive game to that point.

And when their offense abandoned them, they couldn’t get enough stops against a potent Trailblazers team that loves playing fast and loose. Chicago native Evan Turner hit two big baskets during the run, as he hit five of six on the night to score 11.

The Bulls harassed Lillard into one of his worst shooting nights of the season in a blowout win a few weeks ago and he made amends with a 26-point, seven-assist night

He looked to start off on the right foot from the jump, taking advantage of Jerian Grant off the dribble.

The Bulls’ defense was confused on rotations, allowing Lillard, C.J. McCollum and Allen Crabbe to feast early on. McCollum ran around screens and read a slow-reacting Bulls defense, nailing jumpers over flat-footed defenders.

Crabbe scored 17 off the bench while McCollum hit 10 of 19 to score 24, as the Blazers hit nine triples at 39-percent accuracy.

The trio of guards combined for 45 in the first half and the Bulls needed to make an adjustment.

So Butler started the third quarter defending Lillard and it seemed to throw off the Blazers’ rhythm. The Bulls took a 67-66 lead minutes into the second half and held off the duo until McCollum’s 25-foot triple right at the end of the third.

He dropped in another two minutes into the fourth to give the Blazers a 90-89 lead.

By then, they were in a dogfight and unable to slow down the hot shooting Blazers.