Sunday, Feb. 27, 2011
Posted 8:05 p.m.
By Patrick Mooney
MESA, Ariz. Matt Garza leaped over the first-base line as he walked to the mound at HoHoKam Park. He appears to be in constant motion.
You rarely see him killing time at his locker. He yells out to the other side of the clubhouse to ask a question. The other day he reluctantly stopped to do a quick interview with a national columnist right there in the middle of the room, no need to find a more quiet space.
Landing Garza became close to an obsession for Jim Hendry. The Cubs general manager spoke with Andrew Friedman, his counterpart in Tampa Bay, basically every day except Christmas and New Years for a month while trying to close the deal.
Hendry sat in the first row watching on a 49-degree Sunday afternoon. Garza didnt throw a breaking ball during his two innings in this Cactus League opener.
Coco Crisp drove one pitch into the right-field bullpen for a grand slam. Matt Carson crushed another off the green batters eye, 410 feet out in center. It ended in a 15-7 loss to the Oakland As in front of 6,892 fans.
The ball felt good coming out of my hand, Garza said. I felt like I was very explosive toward home plate. Everything that needs to be there is there. Location will come with time and more innings. Im not disappointed. Im pretty upbeat about it.
Garza had already moved on from his final line: five runs on five hits in two innings. Its hard to sweat those numbers when youve been an ALCS MVP.
Mike Quade didnt watch Garza throw a single pitch in bullpen sessions or batting practice during the two weeks the Cubs trained at Fitch Park. The manager had read all the reports on Garza, but mostly wanted to see how he carried himself.
Hes almost more wired than I am, Quade said. Hes going a mile a minute.
You combine talent with energy with what looks like really good work ethic does it get any better than that?
Garza paused long enough Sunday morning to watch episodes of The Simpsons and The Office on an iPad-type device. Headphones plugged into his ears, he leaned back in his chair with his legs on a water fountain.
Hes always laughing, always smiling, said first baseman Carlos Pena, a teammate in Tampa Bay. (But) when he gets on the mound, (he) wants to beat the other team so bad and dominate. Its just cool to see how he can turn it on like that. You think hes just unapproachable, the next thing you know hes just the friendliest guy.
But this doesnt seem like someone who sits still for long. A Twins first-round pick made it to the majors by his second professional season, rising from Class-A Fort Myers to Double-A New Britain to Triple-A Rochester to Minnesota in 2006. Hes still only 27 and has already been traded twice.
I was watching him (the other day) in the bullpen at 8:15 in the morning and he was just as intense there as he would be at 7 at night, catcher Koyie Hill said. A lot of that is just adrenaline, which is good. Coming to a new place, hes excited. Hopefully it doesnt wear off. I dont think it will. I dont see it happening.
Garza has said that hes not playing to the trade, which cost the Cubs some of the best prospects in their system. But it wasnt a complete win-now move, because Garza is under team control through 2013. So in time this should be his manager, his team, his league.
On Sunday Garza even got the first hit he could remember. Someone supposedly threw the ball into the Cubs dugout. He was laughing about that. The pitching numbers didnt matter.
It was a good jumping-off point, Garza said.
PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.