WASHINGTON – It’s not quite “The Return,” but Matt Garza’s first big-league start in 10 months could come with the whole city watching the Cubs and White Sox.
Garza’s adrenaline would be off the charts, but that’s the way it could line up if he makes two more rehab starts in the minors. In that scenario, the earliest he could be activated would be May 26, the day before the Cubs begin a four-game stretch against their South Side rivals.
Garza threw 3.1 scoreless innings during Saturday’s 66-pitch outing with Double-A Tennessee, allowing three hits and two walks against two strikeouts. He’s in line to make another start Thursday with Triple-A Iowa and extend himself to 85 or 90 pitches.
“He felt great, (but wasn’t) real efficient,” manager Dale Sveum said Sunday at Nationals Park. “Right now, we just got to get him built up to get to the fourth and fifth and hopefully a sixth inning.”
The disclaimer is that these plans have been redrawn several times. The Cubs shut down Garza with a stress reaction in his right elbow last season, and he strained a lat muscle during the team’s first full-squad workout in February.
Garza’s energy could give the team a big lift, though the rotation has been solid through the season’s first six weeks, accounting for 21 quality starts entering Sunday. That’s the most in the National League outside the St. Louis Cardinals (26) and Philadelphia Phillies (25).
Someone will have to be moved. The Cubs didn’t give Edwin Jackson (1-5, 6.02 ERA) a four-year, $52 million contract to sit in the bullpen. Carlos Villanueva (1-2, 3.02 ERA) has been a swingman throughout most of his big-league career, never making more than 16 starts in a season, which could factor into a difficult decision.
“It ain’t gonna be easy,” Sveum said. “From a team standpoint, it’s a good problem to have. But for the individual that’s gonna have to go -- nobody’s gonna deserve it. Everybody’s pitching perfectly fine.”