Cubs still have to settle the Garza case

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Cubs still have to settle the Garza case

Shrugging off trade rumors is Matt Garzas default setting. The Cubs are at a point in their rebuilding process where almost no player is untouchable. The speculation will probably never go away until hes wearing another uniform.

Garza whos eligible for arbitration the next two seasons didnt settle with the Cubs by Tuesdays deadline to exchange salary figures. CBSSports.com reported that Garzas camp filed at 10.225 million, while the Cubs countered at 7.95 million.

After a blockbuster trade with Tampa Bay last year, Garza made 5.95 million during his first season on the North Side and went 10-10 with a 3.32 ERA and 197 strikeouts in 198 innings.

The Cubs did agree to terms with their six other arbitration-eligible players: catcher Geovany Soto (4.3 million); pitchers Randy Wells (2.705 million) and Chris Volstad (2.655 million); and infielders Ian Stewart (2.2375 million), Jeff Baker (1.375 million) and Blake DeWitt (1.1 million).

At the age of 28, Garzas career profile has often been compared to that of John Danks, who agreed to a five-year, 65 million extension with the White Sox last month. Danks will get 8 million this season, then 14.25 million annually through 2016.

The circumstances arent exactly the same: Danks is left-handed, had only one season of arbitration eligibility remaining and will turn 27 in April. Hes also spent the past five years in the White Sox clubhouse.

But otherwise the career numbers for Garza (52-54, 3.83 ERA, 1.303 WHIP) and Danks (54-56, 4.03 ERA, 1.304 WHIP) are remarkably similar. Each has already logged around 920 innings in the majors.

Arbitration hearings are scheduled to take place sometime between Feb. 1 and Feb. 21, though it usually doesnt get to that point. Theo Epstein has repeatedly mentioned the possibility of a contract extension as a way to turn a short-term asset into a long-term one.

But the Cubs president of baseball operations is also willing to listen if a team built to win now wants a proven big-game pitcher to put them over the top. Garza isnt bothered by all the chatter.

Its fine with me, Garza said last week. Its been a business. Its always going to be a business and if things happen, they happen. But Im happy where Im at. And right now Im a Chicago Cub and Ill be pitching in Wrigley come April.

Preview: Cubs open series with Pirates tonight on CSN

Preview: Cubs open series with Pirates tonight on CSN

The Cubs take on the Pittsburgh Pirates tonight, and you can catch all the action on CSN. Catch first pitch at 6 p.m. with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

Starting pitching matchup: Kyle Hendricks (15-8, 2.06 ERA) vs. Chad Kuhl (5-3, 3.73 ERA)

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David Ross helps Cubs edge Cardinals in regular season home finale

David Ross helps Cubs edge Cardinals in regular season home finale

CHICAGO — David Ross got fired up when Cubs manager Joe Maddon walked to the mound with two out in the seventh inning, ready to argue for Jon Lester to stay in the game.

Maddon and Lester had a different plan.

"Joe looked at him and said 'Have you ever been a part of where the catcher gets taken out of the game before the pitcher?'" Lester said, describing the scene with a big grin. "You can just see him, it's like the kid at the candy store when you tell him he can pick out whatever he wants.

"It was just like the disbelief in his face and slams his mask back over his face and all he can say is 'I love you guys. I love you guys. I love you guys.'"

Ross then walked off to another standing ovation from a raucous crowd of 40,859 at Wrigley Field, part of a heartwarming Sunday night for the backup catcher in his last season. He also hit his 10th homer and teamed with Lester for another scoreless performance, helping the Cubs to a 3-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.

"It was an amazing night," Ross said.

Ben Zobrist had three hits and scored two runs as Chicago finished with a major league-best 57-24 home record. It's the most home wins for the Cubs since they went 58-19 at the West Side Grounds in 1910.

The Cardinals lost for the third time in four games, wasting a chance to improve their playoff positioning. They remain a half-game back of San Francisco for the second NL wild card after the Giants lost 4-3 at San Diego earlier in the day.

"I think we're in a good position right now," pitcher Carlos Martinez said through a translator. "I also think we have a great shot at winning the World Series."

Ross, Lester's regular catcher, was greeted with a long standing ovation when he came to the plate in the second inning. St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina walked halfway to the mound, forcing the unassuming Ross to take in the moment, and he took off his batting helmet to acknowledge the cheering crowd.

Ross then struck out, but he got another chance in the fifth and drove Martinez's second pitch over the wall in left for 1-0 lead. Ross clapped his hands as he rounded first on his 10th homer and the cheers continued after he reached the dugout, prompting a curtain call.

"It was just fitting that David would hit a home run, isn't it?" Maddon said. "I mean it had to have happened tonight."

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Lester (19-4), one of the top candidates for the NL Cy Young Award, struck out seven in 6 2/3 innings. The left-hander allowed three hits and walked one while improving to 10-0 with 1.34 ERA in his last 13 starts.

It was Lester's idea to pull Ross in the middle of an inning.

"He's like a brother to me and for him to give me that was pretty cool," Ross said.

The Cardinals pulled within one on Jhonny Peralta's two-out RBI single in the eighth, but Brandon Moss flied to center with runners on the corners. Willson Contreras responded with an RBI single in the bottom half and Aroldis Chapman worked the ninth for his 16th save with the NL Central champions and No. 36 on the year.

Martinez (15-9), pitching with a heavy heart after the death of Miami pitcher Jose Fernandez in a boating accident, allowed two runs and six hits in six innings. He struck out six and walked four.

"He had lots of juice," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "It's probably the hardest sinker I've ever seen him throw. A couple of those were 97 (mph). He was locked in. He wanted it bad today, and he was good enough for us to win."