PHOENIX – The Texas Rangers traded in potentially five prospects for 13 episodes of “The Matt Garza Show.”
Garza declined to speak to the Texas media on Tuesday when he reported to Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, citing his no-interviews policy the day before he pitches. So no “crapshow” or “I’ll pitch on the freaking moon” or any of the other greatest hits.
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The headliner from this huge trade with the Cubs changed his Twitter avatar, posted a photo of his new jerseys and tweeted: “I appreciate all the love from all the fans! I’m glad this whole thing is over! Lets get Texas to October! #pumped.”
The Ballpark is where Garza almost got into a fight with catcher Dioner Navarro, a heated argument that taught a big-game pitcher how to better channel his emotions and control his adrenaline. The incident made them become great friends and helped fuel the Tampa Bay Rays to the 2008 World Series.
“I know he can get on a lot of people’s nerves,” Navarro said. “But I kind of understood him the best and he knew I wasn’t going to play around with him. I wasn’t going to bullcrap him. I was going to tell him the truth (and) he was going to take it like a man.”
As the Rangers go all-in, what should they expect from Garza?
“He’s a frontline guy,” pitcher Jeff Samardzija said. “He’s a leader in the clubhouse. He does things the right way. He has no baggage, no sideshow. He just likes to talk. To tell you the truth, you need those guys. In a long season, you need guys that can open their mouths and have fun and say some things that need to be said.
“They’re getting a great guy (who) knows how to be a team player. He’s going to go down there and he’s going to fit in and he’s going to do an amazing job.”
Garza didn’t explode the way some feared when former general manager Jim Hendry made him the centerpiece of an eight-player deal with Tampa Bay in January 2011. It was an aggressive trade that compelled the media to make Carlos Zambrano comparisons that never turned out to be accurate.
Team president Theo Epstein once put it this way: There’s a method to Garza’s madness.
Garza impressed the coaching staff with his work ethic and competitiveness and enjoyed dropping into manager Dale Sveum’s office to chit-chat and say whatever’s on his mind, maybe have a cold one. He went 21-18 with a 3.45 ERA in 60 starts for the Cubs, and he’s at an age (29) where he could be figuring things out.
“Matt’s a great teammate, one of the best competitors I’ve seen,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. “He’s certainly a guy we’ll be sad to not have around anymore. He always kept a really good demeanor, whether he was injured or healthy. He kept his teammates in the game.
“He wants to go win a ring. He was close to a ring in 2008 and I know he wants to get one now.”
Up next is the New York Yankees on Wednesday night. Garza – who went 5-0 with a 1.24 ERA in his last six starts while throwing to Navarro – now gets to work with A.J. Pierzynski, the former villain in the Cubs-White Sox rivalry.
“He’s been around,” Navarro said of Pierzynski. “You don’t stay in the league for that long if you don’t know what you’re doing. He knows what he’s doing and I’m pretty sure they’ll get along together, too.”