'Inexcusable mistakes' doom Garza vs. Brewers

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'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.

[PHOTO] Joe Maddon, Miguel Montero patch things up over a drink

[PHOTO] Joe Maddon, Miguel Montero patch things up over a drink

Despite the Cubs ending their 108-year World Series drought, Miguel Montero made offseason headlines for all the wrong reasons when he complained about his role in the Cubs' 2017 championship campaign.

Montero criticized Maddon's communication skills, catching rotation and bullpen decision-making after the team's Grant Park celebration. Maddon brushed off the criticism, and last week at spring training Montero said he hadn't spoke with the Cubs' skipper.

That tension appears to be all but a thing of the past, as Montero posted this picture of him and his manager sharing a drink together sporting nothing but smiles.

It's safe to say Montero would describe his relationship with Maddon now as: #WeAreGood.

Addison Russell planning to become next Cubs superstar

Addison Russell planning to become next Cubs superstar

MESA, Ariz. – Addison Russell earned his manager’s trust by playing “boring” defense, always making the routine plays at shortstop with textbook fundamentals. Even Russell’s agent called him an “old soul,” already serious about his craft and driven by quiet determination and husband-and-father responsibilities.

But the Cubs also know Russell as a moonwalking showman with the freaky athleticism to do Ozzie Smith backflips and make spectacular highlight-reel plays. And you could see the vroom-vroom, fist-pumping celebrations after yet another clutch hit.

“Ever since I was a little kid,” Russell said, “I always wanted to be on the big screen.”

Now Russell will try to make the leap to superstar, as one of the many personalities on a Cubs team that can crossover nationally and live forever in Chicago, just like the ’85 Bears, the way Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo have built their brands.

“We got great ballplayers, beautiful faces on this team,” Russell said. “Just talent galore in this clubhouse, and that’s really cool to see, because these guys handle themselves like real, true professionals.”

The start of spring training is a reminder that Russell has still only spent one wire-to-wire season in The Show. He turned 23 last month and has already become a World Series champion, the youngest player in franchise history to start an All-Star Game and the first Cub shortstop to reach 95 RBI since Ernie Banks in 1960.

Russell’s World Series grand slam helped him accumulate the most postseason RBI (14) in club history – after putting up 11 game-winning RBI for a 103-win team. FanGraphs also had Russell tying San Francisco’s Brandon Crawford for the major-league lead with 19 defensive runs saved at shortstop.

“Really, the sky’s the limit,” manager Joe Maddon said. “This guy is scratching the surface. He is that good. Know thyself – I think that’s what’s happening with a lot of our young guys. They’re understanding themselves better. And as they do, their game’s going to continue to improve.

“So with Addie, listen, he could be an annual All-Star, there’s no question. Beyond that, he’s just such a gifted athlete, so quick, and he cares so much. And he’s really turned out to be a good self-evaluator, so all those are components to creating a superstar.”

Russell said he’s working with Boras Corp. on potential endorsements with Pepsi and Audi. He visited a Nike headquarters in Oregon to help design his custom cleats and custom glove. He also posted images from the White House on his social-media accounts, which have nearly 549,000 followers combined between Twitter and Instagram.

“The opportunities are coming, which is great,” Russell said. “It’s a whole new playing field. I’m glad that I’m getting to see a different side of baseball, where I can actually find a couple talents off the baseball field. It’s all interesting stuff.”

It’s also taken some getting used to, as he almost had trouble remembering how many “Addison Russell Days” there were in Florida, between events at Pace High School and with the Santa Rosa Board of County Commissioners.

“This whole fame thing is really new to me,” Russell said. “Walking everywhere, people want autographs and stuff. Different airports, different cities, it’s very humbling. It’s a great blessing. I’m just a small-town guy, so it hit me pretty hard.”

Like the moment Russell realized what the Cubs just did, after the whirlwind of riding in the championship parade down Lake Shore Drive and Michigan Avenue, standing on stage in front of millions at the Grant Park rally and going to Disney World.

“I remember this past offseason, going into my mom’s room and laying down on her bed,” Russell said. “That’s when all the memories of this past year – all the way from spring training (to) the All-Star Game and then the World Series run – it all hit me at once. It was overbearing, kind of, and I started crying.

“That’s when it sunk in. It was just a magical moment.”