Chicago Cubs

No retreat: Garza won't back down after loss

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No retreat: Garza won't back down after loss

Friday, April 15, 2011
Posted: 10:08 p.m. Updated: 11:57 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

DENVER The anger and the defiance had disappeared by the time Matt Garza stood up in front of his locker. His voice was steady and measured as he looked from here to the end of September.

Its gonna turn I know it is, Garza said late Friday night. I know its a long season. (I have to) keep going out there, keep throwing, keep battling. Thats all I can do. I cant look for some secret answer.

Garzas heart and his fast-twitch muscles urge him to be a power pitcher. Its part of his identity. The Cubs want him to improve his soft game and find a way to finesse hitters, without robbing him of the aggressiveness that made him so successful in the past.

Everyone might have found a balance at Coors Field, but Garza was sabotaged by one bad inning in a 5-0 loss to the Colorado Rockies in front of 30,285 fans.

The 11-2 Rockies baseballs first team to reach double-digit victories are on a seven-game winning streak. For the Cubs (6-7) to get on a roll like that, they will need their frontline pitchers to play up to expectations.

Garza didnt back down and felt like he mixed around his 119 pitches well, but at this point their big offseason get is 0-2 with a 6.27 ERA.

He just keeps competing, manager Mike Quade said. As long as hes making pitches with that mindset hell be fine. It hasnt been a great start for him and he knows that. But hes still working and I still believe hes going to a hell of a pitcher (in) this rotation.

Garza will need to learn the National Leagues hitters, and adjust to playing in a new city and a bigger market, but insists that will not faze him. Whats overlooked in the trade from Tampa Bay is that Garza went from one of the games best defensive teams in 2010 to one of its worst.

This game pivoted with the bases loaded in the second inning. Rockies catcher Chris Iannetta launched an 86 mph slider that soared over Marlon Byrds head and just beyond his glove in center.

Catch-22, Byrd said. You want to play deep, but at the same time (if) he hits a ground ball up the middle, I dont throw the guy out and two runs score. (I) just want to get a better jump next time.

Byrd was playing shallow, and his teammates think of him as a Gold Glove outfielder for the angles he takes and the reads he makes. Starlin Castro took Byrds relay throw and didnt seem to gather himself.

Castro fired toward third base to try to get Iannetta, but the ball sailed into the dugout as the Cubs fell behind 4-0 on a bases-clearing triple.

Garza didnt give in and look for an easy out, which is why the Cubs arent worried. He left after six innings and gave up five runs on seven hits. Its not all on him.

The Cubs offense didnt get any sort of bounce playing at Coors Field. In the three games Garza has started, the Cubs have scored four runs combined, and zero in his last two outings.

Hes a bulldog, Byrd said. He goes out there and gives us a chance. He kept us in the game and thats where the offense needs to come through and have his back. (We) need to step up for him.

Garza didnt blame his offense or his defense. He gave no excuses about the thin mountain air. He looked inward.

Its frustrating, but you just got to stay positive and keep working (and) know that grind is going to pay off, Garza said. Ive been through droughts like this. Keep going right at it head-first, thats about all I can do.

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

In thick of tight division race, Cubs add catcher Rene Rivera: 'You can't have enough experience'

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USA TODAY

In thick of tight division race, Cubs add catcher Rene Rivera: 'You can't have enough experience'

If this was 2016, the Cubs might not have bothered to acquire Rene Rivera.

But this isn’t 2016.

The Cubs have a vastly different catching situation than they did a year ago. But even more importantly, they’ve been unable to build any sort of lead in a crowded National League Central race.

Rivera, claimed off waivers from the New York Mets on Saturday morning, almost surely won’t end up being the guy who fuels the Cubs’ pulling away from the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals. But with Willson Contreras on the disabled list, Miguel Montero on the Toronto Blue Jays, Alex Avila not even a month into his Cubs tenure and Victor Caratini just 17 games into his big league career, adding an extra veteran presence behind the plate seems like a pretty good idea.

“It’s like you can’t have enough pitching. You can’t have enough experience, depth-wise, especially at that position,” manager Joe Maddon said Saturday. “So I though we were very fortunate to be able to do this right now. Theo (Epstein, team president) told me about the potential yesterday, obviously it happened.”

This time last season, the Cubs had a reliable 1-2 punch behind the plate with Montero and Contreras. And more notably they had a double-digit lead in the NL Central standings. There’s been an awful lot of change since, with Montero’s brutal honesty getting him shipped off to Canada and Contreras injuring his leg in San Francisco.

Fortunately for the Cubs, they invested some of their last remaining minor league capital in acquiring Avila. Avila won’t replicate the kind of offensive production that made Contreras the hottest hitter on the team, but he’s a very capable starting catcher during Contreras’ time on the shelf.

And while Caratini has been fine — in fact, he’s hitting .400 since Contreras went down and collected three hits in Friday’s win over the Blue Jays — the Cubs are no longer about getting guys experience in August and September. The stakes are much higher.

The Cubs might’ve been an unstoppable juggernaut during the 2016 regular season. This year, though, has been a much different story, and a playoff spot is hardly a certainty.

Rivera isn’t going to solve the problems that have made it so the Cubs are stuck fighting for the crown of a middle-of-the-road division. But he’ll bring veteran experience to a playoff race that could last all the way until the season’s final days.

Rivera has been playing big league ball since 2004 but has totaled just nine years of major league service since then, serving in backup roles and just twice appearing in more than 100 games in a season. The Cubs raved about his defensive ability Saturday — as well as the eight homers he hit in 54 games for the Mets this season.

“He’s very good. Saw him with different teams, we’ve all seen him. He’s got a great reputation,” Maddon said. “Nice fella. Very good defensive player, great reputation. And he's got some pop, too. He hit a couple home runs. So that veteran kind of presence, the depth that it provides is all good stuff.”

No announcement has been made about the active roster. Minor league pitcher Aaron Brooks was designated for assignment to make room for Rivera on the 40-man roster. But the general thinking is that Caratini will head back to Triple-A Iowa.

“He’s done really well,” Maddon said of Caratini. “The way he’s blocked pitches in the dirt has been spectacular. I’ve enjoyed watching his receiving and his blocking, too. The pitchers have been really happy with him. … He’s very aware of building relationships with his pitchers, which I like. And it seems as if the pitchers are into him, too.

“There’s a great future for him in this game.”

But right now, the Cubs need all the experience they can get.

The worst seventh-inning stretch performances of all time

The worst seventh-inning stretch performances of all time

Just 14 years ago, Cubs fans heard quite possibly the worst rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" ever. 

Ozzy Osbourne, lead vocalist for Black Sabbath, took the mic that 2003 afternoon at Wrigley and made eardrums bleed. It was that painful. 

It got "In the Loop" thinking, what were some other horrendous singing performances? 

From Da Coach to Scottie Pippen, the video above mashes up the worst of the worst.