Monday, Feb. 21, 2011Posted: 6:55 PM
By Patrick Mooney
MESA, Ariz. Matt Garza hasnt seen it all, but in baseball years, he seems to be an old 27. The former first-round pick has already been traded twice. Hes pitched in the World Series. Hes married with children.
The Cubs have no reservations about Garza. His medical records are clean and hes under team contractual control for the next three seasons. Thats why they gutted their farm system to acquire him from the Rays in last months eight-player deal.
Hes very intense, said first baseman Carlos Pena, a teammate in Tampa Bay. Youll be able to see it its kind of obvious.
You may have to wait until April 3 at Wrigley Field to see its full force. But in the meantime, it doesnt seem like you have to worry about hurting Garzas feelings.
Manager Mike Quade included Garza on Monday when he brought Ryan Dempster and Carlos Zambrano into his office. But Garza didnt feel like he needed to be in the Opening Day discussion.
(Quades) still trying to feel me out, Garza said. Im the type of guy where you dont have to tell me ahead of time -- just put my name on the board and Ill be ready. It really doesnt bother me and I told him that: Quade, its your team. You run it the way you want and you tell me when I need to throw and Ill be there.
The Cubs have spent a lot of time, energy and money wondering where Zambrano is at. They need someone else to stabilize the front of the rotation. Garza wouldnt have gotten to this point if he didnt have an ego. But hes not wrapped up in Opening Day appearances.
I really dont care, and I told Q that, Garza said. As long as he doesnt say, Well, youre No. 6 or 7, then it really doesnt bother me where the hell Im at. By the end of the year, its really not going to matter. As long as we end up in October, I dont care where I throw.
That may be a long shot, but the odds look better after the Garza trade. Across the past three seasons, hes won 34 games and posted a 3.86 ERA, numbers that should improve outside the American League East. At a minimum, the Cubs are counting on 30 starts and 200 innings.
Sometimes you want to get caught up in predictions and whos going to win what division and whos going to be in the playoffs, Dempster said. I always joke around: I booked my tee times for Oct. 4 because everyone says were not making the playoffs. But we still got to play the games (and) good things can happen when you unite as a team.
Garza has at least given fans a different reason for optimism. There may not be a direct cause and effect, but Cubs marketing chief Wally Hayward said Monday that the renewal rate for season tickets is above 90 percent. All hope is not lost.
Im pumped, Garza said. I didnt work all offseason for nothing. So its time to get going. Get the tires aired up and get the engine amped and lets get rolling, man.
PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.