Cubs have concerns, but not about Garza

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Cubs have concerns, but not about Garza

Sunday, March 20, 2011Posted 4:55 PM Updated 6:50 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MESA, Ariz. The numbers can tell you whatever you want in spring training. If Matt Garza was blowing away hitters, wed all be convinced that he was about to conquer the National League.

But since Garzas ERA is now 9.88 and even though he hasnt exceeded four innings in any of his five appearances the Cubs are writing it off as a veteran pitcher getting his work in.

Its been command the stuff is excellent (and) the velocity is good, manager Mike Quade said Sunday. When he does go to his soft game, its been good, and I think thats going to peak at the right time.

Garza has a clean medical history hes been on the disabled list just once in his career and has repeatedly said that hes healthy. He left Saturdays game with a tight left hamstring, a decision Quade described as over-the-top cautious, and reached his pitch count with a bullpen session.

Garza also complained about the mound at Peoria Sports Complex, where he had pitched well five days earlier. It has been a weird spring for Garza, who was rocked in his debut and left his second start as a precaution after a line drive drilled his lower back.

Zooming out from Garza, the Cubs began Sunday with a 6.32 overall team ERA that ranked last in the majors. Quade said thats not a concern not here, not right now.

The manager doesnt pay much attention to individual stats and prefers to focus on the snapshots he takes from his chair behind home plate.

Ryan Dempster has looked like an Opening Day starter. Carlos Zambrano has conducted himself like a professional. Kerry Wood has dominated hitters with his breaking stuff.

Im just looking at how I feel about them health-wise, Quade said. Would I like to see improvement here and there? And do we need to come out with better command by Opening Day? Yeah, but I think pitching-wise Im looking at a group of guys Im happy with.

Garza has walked 10 batters in 13.2 innings, a sample size that is nothing when weighed against the 94 starts he made during a three-year window in Tampa Bay.

Garza has earned the right to experiment with his pitches. He enjoys the luxury of being able to work on something specific like establishing his fastball without worrying about results.

At times, the 27-year-old seems to get a bit hyper first baseman Carlos Pena came over to the mound to calm him down during a recent Cactus League start. One reason Quade slotted Garza behind Dempster and Zambrano in the rotation was so that he could take two extra days to adjust to his new surroundings.

More than once, Garza has said that he will be ready when the bell rings. On April 3, the story will write itself. Check back then to hear the spin out of the interview room.

The Cubs are expecting great things from Garza. They cant wait to say: We told you so.

When were all sitting around here doing this after the third game at Wrigley, Quade said, well see if I was right or wrong.
Etc.
John Grabow threw a scoreless inning his second in the past four days during Sundays 3-2 win over the Giants. Afterward the left-handed reliever reported no issues with his knee or shoulder. Angel Guzman has made remarkable progress in his recovery from shoulder surgery. He left major-league camp on Sunday but is scheduled to throw another batting practice session this week and pitch in a minor-league game next week. Hes certain hes coming back, Quade said. Its just great to see. I hope he beats the odds. Aramis Ramirez was sent home Sunday morning with a high fever. Theres a chance he could play Monday in Tempe against the Angels. Quade has agreed to let the White Sox use the designated hitter on Thursday in Mesa. Well let our pitchers hit and they can DH, Quade said, but with that we ought to get a run or two, right?

PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Willson Contreras' reunion with fan with Down syndrome will hit you right in the feels

Willson Contreras' reunion with fan with Down syndrome will hit you right in the feels

Daniel Rodriguez must be good luck.

The soon-to-be-10-year-old fan with Down syndrome had a reunion with Willson Contreras before Tuesday afternoon's game against the White Sox at Wrigley Field. Contreras promptly responded with a three-run homer in the first inning, roughly an hour after meeting up with Daniel:

It was Contreras' 16th homer of the season. The distance of all his blasts equals almost 1.2 miles:

Daniel and Contreras have met a couple times before, with the first time coming as part of the Cubs Caravan over the winter. Then came spring training, when Daniel's family was part of a group of nine families Advocate flew down to Mesa, Ariz., to meet and interact with the Cubs. Contreras - who has a nine-year-old cousin with Down syndrome back in Venezuela - remembered Daniel from the Caravan and the two became fast friends.

All nine families got together for a reunion at Wrigley Field Tuesday and surprised Daniel ahead of his 10th birthday on Wednesday.

In addition to the homer, Contreras also gave Daniel batting gloves, a helmet and an official Contreras jersey. The gesture drew applause from fans behind the Cubs dugout, even making some tear up:

Posted by Chicago Cubs on Tuesday, July 25, 2017

After Daniel's reunion with Contreras, all the Advocate families came out onto the field with Clark the Cub and posed for pictures behind home plate:

Selfie time with his dad and Clark:

Unfortunately, one of the kids of the Advocate group wasn't able to make it, as Talia Freund passed away this spring. The Cubs honored her at the end of the three-minute video they played pregame:

Contreras has an event coming up for Special Olympics on Aug. 3:

Kyle Hendricks is back, but Cubs will likely have to wait for their next shot at Yu Darvish

Kyle Hendricks is back, but Cubs will likely have to wait for their next shot at Yu Darvish

Within the first several weeks of the Theo Epstein administration, the Cubs finished second in the Yu Darvish sweepstakes, though nowhere close to the $51.7 million the Texas Rangers bid for the exclusive rights to negotiate a six-year, $60 million deal with the Japanese superstar.

The Cubs will probably have to wait a few more months for their next shot at Darvish, who is “unlikely to move” before the July 31 trade deadline, a source monitoring the situation said Monday. Darvish means enough to the franchise’s bottom line as a box-office draw and magnet for corporate sponsors that the Rangers would be reluctant to trade a player with global appeal and potentially jeopardize that relationship heading into free agency this winter.

Beyond the possible impact on re-signing Darvish, that would also mean foreclosing on a season where Texas is only 2.5 games out of an American League wild-card spot, making this final week critical to the buy-or-sell decision.

The Cubs would obviously prefer to stay out of the rental market after shipping two top prospects to the White Sox in the Jose Quintana deal. Quintana’s reasonable contract – almost $31 million between next season and 2020 once two team options are picked up – creates financial flexibility for a free-agent megadeal (Darvish?) or the next big-time international player.

But the cost of doing business with the White Sox probably means the Cubs wouldn’t have the super-elite prospect to anchor a trade for Darvish, anyway. That would be another obstacle in any possible deal for Sonny Gray, with an AL source saying the New York Yankees are going hard after the Oakland A’s right-hander (and have a deeper farm system and a greater sense of urgency after missing on Quintana).

All that means Kyle Hendricks could function as the trade-deadline addition for the rotation, with the Cubs instead trying to shorten games and deepen their bullpen by July 31.

After spending more than six weeks on the disabled list, the Cubs activated Hendricks for the start of this week’s crosstown series, watching him pitch into the fifth inning of Monday’s 3-1 loss to a White Sox team that had lost nine straight games.

[Willson Contreras may be ‘the f------ Energizer Bunny,’ but Cubs still need to get another catcher before trade deadline]

Hendricks is a rhythm/feel pitcher who blossomed from an overlooked prospect in the Texas system into a piece in the buzzer-beater Ryan Dempster deal at the 2012 deadline into last year’s major-league ERA leader.

Hendricks clearly isn’t locked in yet. He gave up eight hits, but minimized the damage against the White Sox, allowing only one run while putting up five strikeouts against zero walks.

“He wasn’t as normal,” manager Joe Maddon said. “The velocity was still down a little bit. There was not a whole lot of difference between his pitches. He was not what you would call ‘on.’ He would be the first one to tell you that. He looked fine delivery-wise, but the ball just wasn’t coming out as normal.”

Hendricks described his fastball command as “terrible,” called his secondary pitches “OK” and ultimately came to this conclusion: “Health-wise, everything felt great, so we’ll take that. Just got to get back (to my routine).”

The biggest takeaway is Hendricks didn’t feel any lingering effects from the right hand tendinitis that was initially classified as a minor injury in early June. Meaning the Cubs (51-47) are just about at full strength and have another week left to upgrade the defending World Series champs.