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.

From top to bottom, Cubs have all the pieces in place, including new deals for Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod

From top to bottom, Cubs have all the pieces in place, including new deals for Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod

CINCINNATI – From top to bottom, the Cubs now have all the pieces in place to make October baseball at Wrigley Field a reality, year after year, with family ownership, rock-star executives and blue-chip players.

“It’s nice to keep the band together,” manager Joe Maddon said, reacting to Friday’s announcement that general manager Jed Hoyer and scouting/player-development chief Jason McLeod had finalized contract extensions, matching up their timelines with team president Theo Epstein’s new monster deal through the 2021 season.

Those architects constructed what’s already a 102-win team, a division champion and the National League’s No. 1 seed, making the Cubs right now the biggest story in baseball, if not professional sports.

The lineup for a 7-3 win over the rebuilding Cincinnati Reds featured two MVP candidates (Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo), a 22-year-old All-Star shortstop (Addison Russell) and marquee free agents (Ben Zobrist, Jason Heyward, Dexter Fowler). The last two games of the regular season at Great American Ball Park will feature Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks making their final cases for the Cy Young Award. 

“It always starts with ownership and then it goes into the front office and eventually gets to us when you have that kind of stability,” said Maddon, who led a stunning turnaround with the Tampa Bay Rays despite all the uncertainty that came with small-market payrolls, a charmless domed stadium (Tropicana Field) and speculation about relocation and contraction.

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“We have a great product on the field,” Maddon said. “We have the best ballpark in the world. Our fans are spectacular. The city itself – there’s no more interesting place to live than Chicago. All those factors play into the success.

“I know in the past the Cubs haven’t been as successful as they wanted to be. But I don’t know that all the different ingredients have been put into place this well.

“So looking ahead, you just want to build off what you’ve done. Last year was a good building block coming into this year. And we want to keep moving forward. Of course, our goal is to play the final game of the year and win it. Under these circumstances, I think it becomes more believable on an annual basis.”

Since Epstein, Hoyer and McLeod reunited in the fall of 2011 – updating their World Series blueprints with the Boston Red Sox – the Cubs are just the third team in major-league history to win at least 100 games within four years of a 100-loss season. The Cubs have now qualified for postseason play in consecutive seasons for only the third time in franchise history.

“We had some good pieces,” chairman Tom Ricketts said. “But the organization itself was not in a position where you could believe that there was sustainability and consistency and success on the field. Obviously, Theo and the guys that he brought with him five years ago kind of took the organization down to the studs and started rebuilding.

“The time and energy to do it the right way has paid off with a team that should be successful for years to come.”

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