Garza blames himself, but gets no breaks

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Garza blames himself, but gets no breaks

Monday, April 25, 2011
Posted: 10:19 p.m. Updated: 12:40 a.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

Matt Garza only blamed himself, though it would have been easy to look around and focus on what else went wrong.

Mike Quade tapped his fingers while sitting at the same table in the interview room. The manager didnt pretend to give a positive spin. He spit out words like awful and bad into the microphone.

You believe Garza when he says that personal statistics dont matter. He views his job as pitching deep into games and working late into October. But this has to be frustrating for someone so intensely competitive.

Garza is still waiting for his first win in a Cubs uniform after Mondays 5-3 loss to the Colorado Rockies in front of an announced crowd of 37,417 that was much smaller than that on a miserable night at Wrigley Field.

We lost because I couldnt throw a ball to first base, Garza said afterward. I throw the ball to first base, its a 3-3 game and were still playing. This is the big leagues, man. You cant do anything like that.

Garza played back the fifth inning in his mind. It began with a bunt single and a walk before Garza brushed back Jonathan Herrera as he squared up to bunt.

Herrera responded by dropping a perfect bunt. Garza fielded it and threw the ball into the seats, where it ricocheted back onto the field. That opened up a two-run inning for the Rockies (15-7).

That goes right on my shoulders, Garza said.

Garza did not identify Starlin Castros three errors in the second inning as the turning point. He did not mention 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position or the 12 men left on base. It certainly bothered his manager.

If youre gonna get beat, youd at least not like to gift-wrap the damn thing for the opposition, Quade said. Its great to have talent (and) exciting kids, great to play like a son-of-gun. But if you cant execute (and) make plays (and) tack on a few runsyoure gonna get beat on a regular basis.

You out-hit a club 11-4 and you get beat by two runs I dont think you need to say much more than that.

The Cubs set a major-league record by hitting the .500 mark 10 times on the way to 10-10. Until Garza, Ryan Dempster and Carlos Zambrano start clicking, they will win one game, lose another or worse.

Wed like to not be hanging around, Quade said. Wed like to be five, six over (.500), but I think I understand the reasons were not.

Weve hit the ball well, (but) we havent driven the ball out of the ballpark the way I think were going to. Does the weather have something to do with that? Sure, but it still goes back to getting our pitching straightened out. Im convinced of that.

The Cubs (10-12) watched Darwin Barney smack the first homer of his career, a two-run shot that landed in the left-field basket in the first inning. They also got a career night from Kosuke Fukudome, who had five hits and raised his on-base percentage to .571.

It wasnt nearly enough on a night with this many defensive breakdowns. It fell into the pattern for Garza (0-3, 4.11).

Garza notched 12 strikeouts and allowed 12 hits in his Cubs debut only to have closer Carlos Marmol lose the game in the ninth inning.

Combined the Cubs were outscored 11-0 in Garzas next two starts. Garza then threw six shutout innings last week, but had a victory taken away when Marmol blew another save before the Cubs won in extra innings.

Garza finished with another weird pitching line. He accounted for six innings, gave up three hits, struck out seven and walked only one. But he was charged with five runs one earned.

Hes definitely in form right now and its too bad we cant get the win for him, Barney said. When you got a guy like him on the mound thats an absolute competitor, you want to do everything in your power to help him out. He knows were behind him trying as hard as we can to pick him up.

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Cubs: Ben Zobrist's path back to October and a possible three-peat

Cubs: Ben Zobrist's path back to October and a possible three-peat

MESA, Ariz. – Ben Zobrist is focused on a personal three-peat, not worrying about a changing of the guard or any awkward moments with Javier Baez. Cubs manager Joe Maddon has repeatedly said that Zobrist will be the primary second baseman and another "Javy Being Javy" highlight reel from the World Baseball Classic won't change that thinking right now.

Zobrist sees the big picture better than almost anyone else in the clubhouse after going undrafted out of Eureka High School in downstate Illinois, perfecting the super-utility role Maddon envisioned with the Tampa Bay Rays and helping transform the 2015 Kansas City Royals into World Series champions.

While Baez started all 17 playoff games at second base last year, bursting onto the scene as the National League Championship co-MVP, Zobrist became the World Series MVP with his clutch hitting and still has three seasons left on his $56 million contract.

Maddon didn't spare anyone's feelings during the playoffs, turning $184 million outfielder Jason Heyward into a part-time player, giving a quick hook to major-league ERA leader Kyle Hendricks and shunning relievers not named Aroldis Chapman.

"We haven't had an extended conversation about it," Zobrist said. "But at the beginning of spring, we talked about it. I think his words were: ‘I really think rest is the next improvement in player performance.' Learning what rest means, what good rest is for players and what kind of rest certain players need versus others.

"That doesn't necessarily mean just because you're 35. It could mean you're 25 and you still got to take care of yourself and make sure you're getting the proper rest. Because we have such a deep team, he's able to do that at any given point in time and still feel confident about the team we have on the field.

"It's a good problem to have when you have really good players not playing and sitting on the bench. We had that all last year and we had guys accept their role and just buy into the team concept.

"The makeup of this team is the same, basically. We've got a few new guys and they've got the same mindset, so I anticipate more of the same."

Injuries are one variable that prevents Maddon from getting too stressed out about dividing the playing time over 162 games while the NCAA tournament is still going. Zobrist's stiff neck felt good enough to hit leadoff and play right field in Tuesday afternoon's 10-7 loss to the San Francisco Giants, seeing his first Cactus League action since March 19.

Zobrist plans to play again on Wednesday in Mesa and catch up with more at-bats on the minor-league side of the complex. Assuming Zobrist and All-Star shortstop Addison Russell (stiff back) are ready for Opening Night, Baez will be an NLCS MVP, all-WBC talent waiting for the right matchup or break in the schedule or to sub in as a defensive replacement.

"It's pretty impressive, looking around at the young talent in this clubhouse," Zobrist said. "All throughout spring training, we've seen there's definitely other talent coming, so this team is poised to have a good, long run of success. If everybody stays healthy and we stay together, this is a very good team.

"The biggest thing that I go into the season with this year is we have to be healthy and we have to make sure that we don't relax too much. That's the temptation for teams that just won, to go: OK, well, we're tired, because we had a long season last year and you kind of just assume things are going to go as well as they did.

"You can't assume anything. No matter how good this team is, we have to still go out and execute and perform – and that's going to determine where we are in the standings."

In real time, as the Cubs experienced their lowest moments during last year's regular season, Zobrist correctly pointed out the exhaustion factor while the team played 24 days in a row, losing 15 of their last 21 games before the All-Star break.

What looks like overwhelming depth on paper should help the 2017 Cubs survive and advance into October.

"It's huge," Zobrist said. "It's up and down the lineup on offense. It's all throughout the pitching staff and on the defensive side. It's so deep that you can absorb a little bit of injury here and there.

"With that being said, there are certain guys that you just don't want to lose. So we got to protect everybody. We got to protect our horses – both on the mound and in the lineup – and just make sure that we have our key cogs in there. And if we do, we're as good, if not better, than anybody out there."

Cubs return Rule 5 lefty Caleb Smith to Yankees as roster comes into focus

Cubs return Rule 5 lefty Caleb Smith to Yankees as roster comes into focus

MESA, Ariz. - Matt Szczur vs. Tommy La Stella - and a combination of right/left, outfield/infield and contractual considerations - appears to be the final decision as the Cubs shape their Opening Night roster.

The Cubs returned Rule 5 lefty Caleb Smith to the New York Yankees on Tuesday and assigned injured non-roster players Jemile Weeks and Chris Dominguez to minor-league camp. That left 27 players still technically in the mix, though depth catcher Carlos Corporan isn't really part of that conversation.

The projected eight-man bullpen would look like this: Wade Davis; Koji Uehara; Pedro Strop; Hector Rondon; Carl Edwards Jr.; Justin Grimm; and lefties Mike Montgomery and Brian Duensing.

Szczur, who is out of minor-league options, could be a good fourth outfielder on a team that didn't have so much depth and World Series expectations, making him a potential trade chip for pitching. La Stella offers infield insurance and a left-handed bat off the bench.