'Inexcusable mistakes' doom Garza vs. Brewers

441397.jpg

'Inexcusable mistakes' doom Garza vs. Brewers

Saturday, April 9, 2011
Posted: 8:54 p.m. Updated: 10:45 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MILWAUKEE Matt Garza is aggressive and does not fear pitching to contact. He talks fast, direct and to the point. Thats why he found this to be inexcusable.

As Garza stood in front of his locker afterward, he rattled off the at-bats in his head. He got Prince Fielder to an 0-2 count three times and watched the Brewers slugger crush three doubles and drive in four runs.

By Garzas count, six of Milwaukees eight hits came off breaking or offspeed pitches. That made Saturdays 6-0 loss really, his two starts in a Cubs uniform something of an identity crisis.

Im supposed to put (Fielder) away, and I didnt do that, Garza said. Thats uncalled for. Thats not my style. Thats not who I am and thats something thats going to change. I havent had bad outings. Its just (that) I dont give up 20 hits in two games.

Except Garza just did that.

The Cubs didnt trade for Garza because the Brewers got Zack Greinke. The front office didnt even spin it as a total win-now move, because Garza would be a foundation piece for years to come.

But whoever winds up making the better deal will be telling. It will probably say something about the state of the National League Central.

Greinke fractured his rib while playing pickup hoops this spring and on Saturday threw his second bullpen session, which could put him back in the rotation by early May and change the division race. The Cubs are already down two starting pitchers.

Hours later, Garza made his first career start against the Brewers. You figure he will be making many more at Miller Park, absorbing the noise with the roof closed and feeling the adrenaline along with all those Cubs fans that drove up I-94.

In front of a sellout crowd of 42,478, Garza stalked off the mound with two outs in the sixth inning, the bases loaded and the Cubs trailing 5-0. John Grabow struck out Nyjer Morgan to end the threat, but by then the damage had already been done.

We are, I believe, eight games into the season, Garza said. There are 154 more. I highly doubt any of us are pressing right now. Its not September. Its barely the second week of the season. Theres no pressure, theres no pressing.

Through Garzas first two starts combined, he has given up eight runs on 20 hits. Hes also struck out 20 and walked only three, one intentional. Yes, thats only 12.2 innings, a sample size thats totally insignificant when weighed against what Garza did in Tampa Bay.

The Cubs are learning more and more about Garza. While Greinke has dealt with social anxiety issues, Garza is on the top step of the dugout, showing his emotions.

Hes animated. Hes quite loud, but he knows what hes doing, catcher Geovany Soto said. Hes a little hyperactive, but its good energy.

This isnt all on Garza. Carlos Pena struck out twice and left five men on base in his first two at-bats. And Brewers lefty Chris Narveson shut out the Cubs for seven innings.

But given everything the Cubs (4-4) have gone through this week, as well as the difficult road trip that lies ahead, they could have used the type of performance that once made Garza an ALCS MVP.

Really, the Cubs arent just waiting on Garza. Ryan Dempster and Carlos Zambrano havent pitched up to or beyond expectations either. And until they get rolling, the Cubs will be stuck in neutral.

I dont think you judge the group of pitchers that were counting on by two starts at the beginning of the season, thats for damn sure, manager Mike Quade said. They all have good history. Were not talking about three young kids that we cant count on. And guess what? If they dont pitch well, were going to struggle, and they know that.

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

Cubs: The next steps for Kyle Schwarber

Cubs: The next steps for Kyle Schwarber

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – Kyle Schwarber might have been the most dangerous hitter in a World Series lineup that featured the National League MVP plus four more All-Stars. After spending more than six months recovering from major knee surgery. Against Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber and a dominant Cleveland Indians bullpen.

“He’s not going to play winter ball,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said with a perfect deadpan delivery. “We felt like he proved he can hit major-league pitching.”

The Cubs spent Monday at the winter meetings inside the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, continuing their search for pitching on the outskirts of Washington, D.C. The Cubs are so stacked with hitters that manager Joe Maddon could write out a 2017 Opening Day lineup tomorrow and Theo Epstein’s front office would still have Jorge Soler left over as trade bait.

Schwarber could hit second for the defending World Series champs, and his presence would mean more than any player the Cubs could sign as a free agent. The Cubs expect him to be at full strength by spring training, though it’s unclear how much work, if any, he’ll get as a catcher.

[SHOP CUBS: Get your World Series champions gear right here]

“That’s the hurdle we haven’t really gone over yet,” Hoyer said. “Can he do it? There’s no question he’s going to want to do it. I think he can do it. I think that we have to have discussions about how heavy a workload we put on him in that regard.

“One of the things we talked about even last year before he got hurt was (how) he’s doing full catching drills, running around the outfield, doing stuff hitting. That’s a lot to put on a guy, sort of like playing two ways in football.”

Schwarber, an all-Ohio linebacker in high school, has a run-through-a-brick-wall mentality and doesn’t like to hear about what he can’t do. He wrecked his left knee in an outfield collision in early April and needed a procedure that reconstructed his ACL and repaired his LCL.

It took only two warm-up games in the Arizona Fall League before Schwarber made his dramatic return as the designated hitter at Progressive Field, batting .412 (7-for-17) with a .971 OPS during the World Series. 

The Cubs appear to be set with Willson Contreras and Miguel Montero behind the plate, but Schwarber is the type of baseball gym rat who enjoys breaking down video, giving input for scouting reports and being involved in every pitch.  

“We have to talk through all that stuff,” Hoyer said. “We know what his position’s going to be, so we have to figure out what our position’s going to be. I know he’s going to want to catch.

“But he knows he’s coming in as a left fielder next year. And we have to decide how much of the catching drills (he does).”

Kenley Jansen? Wade Davis? Cubs keeping an open mind for the ninth inning

Kenley Jansen? Wade Davis? Cubs keeping an open mind for the ninth inning

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – The San Francisco Giants had been three outs away from forcing an elimination game that Johnny Cueto would have started at Wrigley Field – and five different relievers couldn’t protect a three-run lead against a Cubs team that made a stunning comeback.

That October crash reverberated throughout the winter meetings as a $10 billion industry gathered outside Washington, D.C. The Giants bought peace of mind for the ninth inning on Monday and finalized a four-year, $62 million deal with Mark Melancon. For the moment, that will be the biggest contract ever for a closer, at least until Kenley Jansen and Aroldis Chapman shatter that record.

The Cubs have been in contact with Jansen’s camp, sources said, monitoring his market to see if there might be a match as the World Series champs try to upgrade the bullpen this week at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center.

Theo Epstein’s front office doesn’t necessarily have a singular focus – believe the reports linking the Cubs to Kansas City Royals closer Wade Davis – or the appetite to win a Jansen bidding war that will include the Los Angeles Dodgers and Miami Marlins and perhaps the New York Yankees and Washington Nationals.

But after telling everyone that they did two offseasons in one last winter – and spending almost $290 million on free agents – this is where the Cubs could make a splash.

“It’s safe to say we’re kicking the tires on any pitching that’s available,” general manager Jed Hoyer said during his briefing with the Chicago media. “We’re not spending a lot of time on bats. We’re spending a lot of times on arms. Anyone that’s available, we’re going to sort of be in on and talking about.”

Cubs manager Joe Maddon watched Jansen’s cutter up close and gave this endorsement during the National League Championship Series: “He’s like a 100-pound heavier version of Mariano Rivera.”

Jansen, a homegrown Dodger, converted from catcher and developed into an elite closer, saving 189 games while putting up a 2.20 career ERA and 13.9 strikeouts per nine innings.

Jansen just turned 29 and already showed a willingness to pitch outside the ninth inning and go for more than three outs, something that didn’t come easily for Chapman in an October where former Yankee teammate Andrew Miller became an American League Championship Series MVP for the Cleveland Indians.

[SHOP CUBS: Get your World Series champions gear right here]

“The postseason was reliever-centric,” Hoyer said. “Bullpens have always been really valuable, but I think the way they were used and talked about – really, not even this postseason, but the last two or three postseasons – people are definitely putting a lot of financial importance on having a good bullpen.”

Kansas City’s blueprint for winning back-to-back pennants and the 2015 World Series featured Davis, who posted a 0.94 ERA during that championship season. But Davis dealt with a strained right forearm this year and will make $10 million in his final season before free agency, at a time when the Royals can begin to see their window to contend closing.

The Cubs haven’t made Chapman a priority – and Epstein’s group has been philosophically opposed to the idea of investing big money in a closer – but they also know they probably don’t get that parade down Lake Shore Drive and Michigan Avenue without that blockbuster deal with the Yankees.

“We see the value of it,” Hoyer said. “Look, we traded a great young prospect in Gleyber Torres to get Chapman, because we felt like that was an area that we were a little bit short. We felt like in order to win the World Series, we had to have that kind of guy at the end of the game. It proved to be right.

“In order to get those really difficult final outs in the postseason, having an elite guy is certainly a huge advantage.”

So if the White Sox become the Chicago team that makes most of the headlines here – and in-house options like Hector Rondon, Carl Edwards Jr. and Pedro Strop disappoint – the Cubs can always reassess at the trade deadline.

“We’ll bolster our bullpen,” Hoyer said. “Whether you do that by adding just a number of good relievers – or whether we do it by adding a guy that’s sort of a known closer – I’m not sure. But we’ll definitely add to our bullpen.”