Garza will be ready when the bell rings

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Garza will be ready when the bell rings

Monday, March 14, 2011
Posted: 6:53 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

PEORIA, Ariz. Until now, Matt Garza has spent his entire career in small markets like Minnesota and Tampa Bay. The Cubs focused on the pitcher who wasnt afraid to go into Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park.

There will almost certainly come a point this season where the fans turn on Garza and he gets booed at Wrigley Field. They will wonder about the prospects the Cubs had to give up to get him, and how expensive it will be to lock up a 27-year-old frontline starter through at least 2013.

That Garza entered Monday with a 14.85 ERA and hadnt yet stretched out to three innings wasnt alarming. But it will be interesting to see what the reactions will be if he doesnt get off to a good start in April.

My own fans getting on me about one or two outings is not that important, Garza said. I got 33 starts I got to make this year, so Im pretty sure one or two or three arent going to be up to their liking.

Ill go in and do my job. You cant really worry about anything else. All I can worry about is trying to get 27 outs and trying to get them as fast as possible.

Garza does not like to slow down and he barreled through Mondays 5-3 loss to the Mariners at Peoria Stadium. He allowed one run on three hits across four innings, using all his pitches and getting closer to where he needs to be.

So much of the spring-training coverage has focused on what the Cubs will do at the back end of their rotation that Garza has flown under the radar at times. On Tuesday Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner the two leading candidates to be the fourth and fifth starters will pitch at the same time some 10 miles apart in split-squad games.

Im no closer to nailing stuff down, manager Mike Quade said. Until I have to make a decision, lets let this thing play out.

That is what the Cubs are essentially doing with Garza, giving him space to bond with new teammates, work on game plans and build his relationship with pitching coach Mark Riggins.

Physically, I feel great. Mentally, Im in a good spot, Garza said. When that bell rings, Ill be ready to go.
Grabow close to return

While the Cardinals and Brewers scramble to deal with injuries to aces Adam Wainwright and Zack Greinke, the Cubs have remained fairly healthy this spring.

Yes, Augie Ojeda (back spasms), Brad Snyder (oblique) and Brett Jackson (shoulder) are dealing with issues, but the Cubs were encouraged by reports on John Grabow, who could be a critical bullpen piece.

The left-handed reliever hasnt appeared in a game since Feb. 27. He threw again Monday and is scheduled to test his sore shoulder on Thursday against the As. The expectation is that Grabow will be ready by Opening Day.

Given his role and given what we need from him, Quade said, he should have enough time, (assuming) no more setbacks.

Catching Hell

In his Oscar-winning work, filmmaker Alex Gibney has targeted scandals: Enron; corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff; and Eliot Spitzers fall from power. So Steve Bartman is a leap, but the long-anticipated ESPN documentary on Cubs fans and Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS is set to make its world premiere. The Tribeca Film Festival announced Monday that Catching Hell will be screened as part of its New York lineup, which runs from April 20 to May 1.

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

For Joe Maddon, Cubs winning World Series came down to Giant comeback in SF and avoiding Johnny Cueto in elimination game

For Joe Maddon, Cubs winning World Series came down to Giant comeback in SF and avoiding Johnny Cueto in elimination game

Jon Lester vs. Johnny Cueto at Wrigley Field – the playoff matchup the Cubs dreaded in an elimination game – will happen more than seven months later under far different circumstances.

The Cubs have a 2016 championship banner flying next to the iconic center-field scoreboard – the ultimate response to any questions about their slow start to this season. The San Francisco Giants can’t have Madison Bumgarner saunter out of the bullpen when he’s recovering from a dirt-bike accident, another reason why an odd-year team is much closer to last place than first in an improved National League West.

The Giants don’t have the same aura, because the Cubs staged an epic comeback to end a best-of-five division series last October, scoring four runs again five different relievers in the ninth inning at AT&T Park.

“I’m telling you, man, Game 4 pretty much won the World Series,” Joe Maddon said. “I did not want to see Mr. Cueto pitching back here again. I’ll get to see him (Tuesday night), but that’s OK, compared to whatever that day would’ve been.”

Maddon has admitted this already, but it is still telling from a manager who always tries to stay in the moment and ignore the negativity. It says something about a Giant franchise that had won 10 straight postseason elimination games and World Series titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014 – and a fan base that used to expect things to go wrong in Wrigleyville after more than a century of losing.

“That whole Game 4 in San Francisco, I did focus on that a lot,” Maddon said. “Just trying to understand Game 5 back at home – how this is going to play out – and do whatever we possibly can to win that game there that night in San Francisco.

“That was the game for me – out of the entire postseason. To have to play the Giants where they were battle-tested – Game 5, back here with (Cueto) pitching – I did not like that at all. I thought that pretty much the postseason hinged on that one game in San Francisco.”

Even though the Cubs still had to survive a 21-inning scoreless streak against the Los Angeles Dodgers before winning their first NL pennant in 71 years. And come back from a 3-1 deficit in the World Series and beat the Cleveland Indians on the road in a 10-inning Game 7 for the ages.

[RELATED: Cubs can't complete another miracle comeback against Giants bullpen]

“That’s what good teams do,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “They’re a very talented club, very solid all around. You don’t win the World Series unless you are.

“Look back at our success, how many times were we looking at elimination? No, you’re never surprised in the postseason. Anything those teams do, it’s because they’re there for a reason. They’re very good.”

Lester beat Cueto in a 1-0 instant classic when Javier Baez lifted a 3-2 quick pitch into the basket beneath the video ribbon in the left-field bleachers. Cueto kept the Cubs so off-balance in Game 1 that Baez actually walked up to home plate in the eighth inning thinking bunt.

The Giants reacted to that Game 4 meltdown by giving All-Star closer Mark Melancon a four-year, $62 million contract at the winter meetings, trying to fix a bullpen that led the majors with 30 blown saves last season.

“It was close,” Bochy said. “Three outs from taking it to Game 5 with a pretty good pitcher going. We can speculate all we want. There’s no point in that. It didn’t happen.

“But, sure, you look back. That’s how tight that series was. Unfortunately, we couldn’t hold on. Give them credit – great job coming back. We’re a team that plays very well under pressure, and we did there. Just couldn’t hold on to that ninth inning.”

Preview: Cubs look to bounce back vs. Giants tonight on CSN

Preview: Cubs look to bounce back vs. Giants tonight on CSN

The Cubs take on the San Francisco Giants on Saturday, and you can catch all the action on CSN and live streaming on CSNChicago.com and the NBC Sports App.

Coverage begins with Cubs Pregame Live at 5:30 p.m. Then catch first pitch 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.

Today’s starting pitching matchup: Jon Lester (2-2, 3.57 ERA) vs. Johnny Cueto (4-3, 4.50 ERA)

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