Cubs have concerns, but not about Garza

398267.jpg

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.

Jon Lester explains absence from Cubs' White House trip: 'Absolutely nothing political'

Jon Lester explains absence from Cubs' White House trip: 'Absolutely nothing political'

Jon Lester didn't make any sort of statement by missing Monday's White House trip with his Cubs teammates. But at a polarizing moment in a divided country, a high-profile player on a World Series team felt the need to respond on social media and explain his absence from the championship ceremony. 

President Barack Obama name-checked Lester during his East Room speech – both for his spectacular pitching performance and beat-cancer charitable initiatives – as the Cubs continued their victory tour off the franchise's first World Series title since Theodore Roosevelt lived in the White House.

Lester stood behind Obama when the 2013 Boston Red Sox were honored on the South Lawn. During that 2014 ceremony, Lester stood next to John Lackey, another Cub who missed this Washington trip. Lester also toured George W. Bush's White House with Boston's 2007 championship team.

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day – and with the specter of Donald Trump's inauguration looming – Obama used his administration's final official White House event to draw a direct line between him and Jackie Robinson and highlight the connective power of sports.

"The best part was the president talking about how sports brings people together," All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo said, "how no matter what's going on in this country and the world, three or four hours of any one particular game can just rally so many people together." 

This team couldn't have created so much joy for generations of fans without Lester, who signed a $155 million contract with the last-place Cubs after the 2014 season, a transformational moment during the long rebuild that led to the White House trip that Obama never thought would happen.

"It was a thrill and an honor for all of us," team president Theo Epstein said. "It means so much more with his roots in Chicago and his final days in office. It couldn't have worked out any better. It's something we'll all remember for our whole lives."

The time Addison Russell froze up after getting a text from Eddie George

The time Addison Russell froze up after getting a text from Eddie George

Plenty of Cubs fans surely were star-struck to meet Addison Russell at Cubs Convention last weekend. But the 22-year-old All-Star shortstop has a shortlist of people he would be amazed to meet, too. 

Russell reveres President Barack Obama, on Friday the outgoing Commander-in-Chief's work in the community when talking about getting to visit the White House. So on Monday, Russell got to check off meeting one of the people on his list. "There's probably about three people that I would be star-struck by, and (Obama's) one of them," Russell said. 

One of those three spots is "open," Russell said. The other member of that list is former Ohio State and Tennessee Titans running back Eddie George. 

Russell wears his No. 27 because of George, who wore that number during his career in which he made four Pro Bowls and rushed for over 10,000 yards and 78 touchdowns. Prior to the 2016 season, George sent Russell and autographed Titans helmet inscribed with good luck message.

After the season, Russell said George texted him seeing if the newly-crowned champion had time to chill. Few things rattled Russell last year — he became the youngest player to hit a grand slam in the World Series when he blasted one in Game 6 against the Cleveland Indians last November — but getting a text from George did. "I couldn't text back," Russell said. "It was nuts. I waited four days because I was thinking of what back to say."

Even the most famous athletes still get star-struck. Russell's been lucky enough in the last few months to meet and hear from two of the people who bring out that sense of awe in him. "Just to come in contact with people like that, it just makes me smile," Russell said. "It definitely gets me in the mood of getting better, and that's the goal this year, is getting better."