Cubs dont expect Garza to tone it down

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Cubs dont expect Garza to tone it down

MESA, Ariz. Alfonso Soriano was trying to collect his thoughts when you heard loud beeping noises at the other end of the clubhouse.

The question was about Matt Garzas personality, and pretty soon everyone started giggling. Garza was alone at his locker on Tuesday, laying down beats and singing Im Sexy and I Know It. Soriano had to smile.

Whatever he does, people laugh, because thats him, Soriano said. Its not like hes done something wrong. We love him (the way) he is, because hes not a bad guy. The most important thing is when he pitches, he shows up (to) win."

Garza may not quite be misunderstood, but even he admits he takes some getting used to. Thats why the 28-year-old pitcher has been dropping by the managers office, to acclimate Dale Sveum to life with Garza.

He doesnt know how I am during the game, Garza said, how my reactions are, how heated I get. I want him to be able to see all that. Give me some time, Ill cool off and well chitchat, shoot the crap a little bit. Im just showing him that (at) my competitive level I (still) know how to draw the line.

Life without Garza a possibility that had to be considered while the Cubs dangled him on the trade market this winter would be far less interesting inside what has been a quiet clubhouse.

Garza allowed two runs in two innings during an 11-4 win over the Colorado Rockies. Sveum had to laugh when Garza was by the on-deck circle asking if he and strengthconditioning coordinator Tim Buss could go shirtless while running the warning track after his start.

Its kind of an inside joke, Garza said.

There were two interpretations. Either Garza saw a Rockies pitcher in a tank top, or the day before Ryan Dempster was caught running in a shirt that Sveum compared to a tight Speedo.

Either way, Sveum isnt going to tell Garza to tone it down (something that may have happened last year). The TV cameras will still find Garza yelling from the top step of the dugout.

I have no problem with that, Sveum said. Thats part of the game. You dont restrain that kind of stuff. You dont let it get out of hand (either). David Cone was like that (and) the four days David Cone didnt pitch were probably the most entertaining days of all. Theres nothing wrong with that. Its actually appreciated.

Garza spent a lot of time during last years camp with earphones on or a hooded sweatshirt pulled over his head. He was almost an island, the centerpiece to a blockbuster trade with the Tampa Bay Rays. He seems far more comfortable now, to the point where Sveum mentions him as a leader alongside Ryan Dempster and Kerry Wood.

Its just me, Garza said. Ive said it over and over and over again: I just like being out there. Its not fun to just sit there for nine innings, three hours, 160 times a year it gets boring. Im very antsy. I dont like sitting still. So why not have fun out there?

So Garza isnt Carlos Zambrano, though that doesnt necessarily mean the Cubs are going to hand him a huge contract extension, which figures to be a discussion sometime this spring.

Hes a huge piece the personality, the work ethic, (and) he cares so much about winning, Sveum said. The example he sets (and) how hard he works and competes on the mound (becomes) a huge asset (for) your organization.

Garza has pitched in the World Series before, and desperately wants to get back to October. He described Sveum as blue collar.

Thats what you need here, Garza said. We work a normal 9-to-5. We dont work 2-to-11. So in order to survive here, you got to be able to get up and put your work in like a blue-collar worker. Thats the way Cubs baseball should be.

Cubs expect Ben Zobrist and Addison Russell to be ready for Opening Night

Cubs expect Ben Zobrist and Addison Russell to be ready for Opening Night

MESA, Ariz. – The Cubs expect Ben Zobrist and Addison Russell to be ready for Opening Night, downplaying any health concerns about their All-Star middle infielders. 

One week out from facing the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium, manager Joe Maddon spent part of Sunday's media session saying how he had no concerns with his World Series MVP's stiff neck and his franchise shortstop's stiff back.

"You can tell with 'Zo,'" Maddon said at the Sloan Park complex. "He'll come around and let me know specifically if he feels it's going to be anything longer than that. He's talking either tomorrow night or the next day."

Zobrist, who spent nine seasons with Maddon's Tampa Bay Rays, hasn't appeared in a Cactus League game since March 19. Maddon also signaled Russell is close to returning to action after being a late scratch from Friday's lineup.

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Not like this, but the Cubs already planned to schedule extra rest for Zobrist, given his age (36 in May), the playoff stress on his body from back-to-back World Series titles and emerging options like Javier Baez on a mix-and-match team. 

All along, Maddon hasn't worried about finding enough at-bats for Baez, knowing that injuries are inevitable and the Cubs have insurance policies up and down the roster that should pay off across a 162-game season. But in this case, it doesn't sound like the Cubs are testing that theory with Zobrist and Russell.

"None of this stuff is really threatening," Maddon said. "The trainers have no real strong issues with anything. It's almost like you'll be overly cautious right now. And that's all we're doing."

Brett Anderson’s personality mixing well with Cubs: ‘I don’t hate anybody yet’

Brett Anderson’s personality mixing well with Cubs: ‘I don’t hate anybody yet’

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Joe Maddon's T-shirt slogans can get a little old at times, but the Cubs manager found a new audience in Brett Anderson, who liked the idea of "Be Uncomfortable" after signing a one-year, prove-it deal with the defending champs.

"It's been awesome so far," Anderson said. "That's my running joke – we're a month into it now or whatever it is – and I don't hate anybody yet.

"That's a testament to the group as a whole – and maybe me evolving as a person."

Yes, Anderson's sarcasm, social-media presence and groundball style fits in with a team built around short-term pitching and Gold Glove defense. The if-healthy lefty finished his Cactus League tour on Saturday afternoon by throwing four innings (one unearned run) during a 7-4 loss to the Colorado Rockies in front of 13,565 at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

Anderson will open the season as the No. 4 starter after a camp that has been remarkably low-key and drama-free.

"I'm kind of cynical by nature, but it's a fun group to be a part of," Anderson said, "(with) young guys that are exciting and happy to be here. And then obviously the mix of veterans, too, that are here with intentions of winning another World Series."

To make that happen, the pitching staff will have to again stay unbelievably healthy. Anderson rolled with a general question about how he physically feels now compared to where he's usually at by this time of year.

"Obviously better than last year, because I was walking with a gimp and all that stuff," said Anderson, who underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair a bulging disk in his lower back last March. "No, my body feels good, my arm feels good and you're getting into the dog days of spring training where you're itching to get to the real thing."