Hinting at a disconnect, Matt Garza mentioned how he’s still feeling out Welington Castillo and getting used to throwing to the young catcher.
Garza slipped in that comment late Tuesday night in the Wrigley Field interview room after a 12-2 loss to the Cincinnati Reds, responding to a question about how he might still be getting his feet wet after a strained lat muscle wiped out his spring training.
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Manager Dale Sveum quickly shot down that theory before Wednesday’s 2-1 loss to the Reds, saying Garza (6.26 ERA in five starts) won’t be getting his own personal catcher.
“I’m not saying I don’t believe in it in certain cases,” Sveum said. “But in this case it’s definitely not warranted.”
To be fair, Garza also pointed the finger at himself after giving up a career-high nine runs, saying he’s a veteran pitcher who needs to “guide (Castillo) through it. I’m not doing what I’m supposed to do. It lies on my shoulders.”
In his first big-league start in 10 months, Garza took a no-hitter into the fifth inning on May 21 at PNC Park and threw five scoreless innings in an eventual 5-4 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Castillo also caught Garza during his seven strong innings in a 7-2 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks on May 31 at Wrigley Field.
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“(Garza) pitched a pretty good game with (Castillo) behind the plate awhile ago,” Sveum said. “Leave the ball up and it doesn’t matter who’s catching.”
During his postgame news conference on Tuesday night, Sveum actually hinted that Garza had issues following the game plan. Sveum enjoys the big personality, but the manager has been waiting for Garza to consistently put it all together and take his game to the next level, like he did with the Tampa Bay Rays during their 2008 World Series run.
“He’s an aggressive guy, but it gets in his way a lot,” Sveum said. “A lot of power starting pitchers with that kind of stuff and secondary stuff kept the ball down. (Curt) Schilling and (John) Smoltz and guys with power arms (and) command keep the ball down and away and get quick outs and have the ability to pitch in. He’s just got to get in that rhythm again to where he’s (not) gorilla pitching.”
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The Cubs have instructed Castillo, 26, to watch video of St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina and study how the five-time Gold Glove winner handles a pitching staff.
Castillo has thrown out roughly 30 percent of the runners trying to steal, and the Cubs rotation began the day with a 3.85 ERA and 36 quality starts (only five teams in the National League had more). He’s hitting .246 and hasn’t homered since April 8, but the organization values his potential and physical gifts.
“He’s put himself into (the category of) being one of the better defensive catchers in the game,” Sveum said. “Hopefully, he’s just one of those building blocks, kind of like how Molina started his career. (He) didn’t strike out, but the average and production wasn’t there (yet). We’ve all seen Molina graduate into one of the better and tougher outs in all of baseball. Welly’s got the mechanics and the hand speed (to) be able to do that with some adjustments and getting more major-league at-bats.”