In the zone: Garza shuts down Phillies

749039.png

In the zone: Garza shuts down Phillies

PHILADELPHIA Matt Garza bobbed his head and swayed from side to side in front of his locker. He buttoned up his blue dress shirt, singing along with the Bob Marley music spilling from the clubhouse speakers.

Dont worry about a thing, 'cause every little thing gonna be all right.'

Garza doesnt exactly project calm. Hes hyperactive and talks to himself. But as Cubs president Theo Epstein once said, theres a method to the madness.

And the idea of Garza staring down hitters from a distance of 60 feet, 6 inches has to be reassuring to the other 24 guys in the room.

In front of a sellout crowd, Garza crossed over into another zone on Sunday at Citizens Bank Park, dominating the Philadelphia Phillies in a 5-1 victory that highlighted everything he could be for this franchise.

Garza allowed a bloop single to Jimmy Rollins that fell into right-center field to begin his game and then retired the next 18 batters he faced.

It was a steady stream of weak pop-ups and routine groundballs, the nasty stuff you need in October. After seven scoreless innings, Garza left with a one-hitter and 10 strikeouts, the 10th time hes hit double digits in his career.

Manager Dale Sveum said Garza who knows his own personality very well would be the first one to tell you this.

Thats probably the most comfortable place hes at on the mound, Sveum said. Other than that, hes bouncing off walls all the time.

Its probably the one place where he can kind of gather himself and calm down and obviously hes done it throughout his career. Hes been one of the better pitchers in baseball.

This is where Garza pitched for the Tampa Bay Rays in the 2008 World Series. The Cubs are 8-14 and near the start of a long rebuilding process.

There are indications that Garza (2-1, 2.67 ERA), who is under club control through 2013, will likely be a major part of those plans. How long will it take to get back to those heights?

I dont know Im just trying to get through the next five days, Garza said. I dont foresee anything. I just know that were moving in the right direction. Were playing aggressive (and) were playing hard through nine. Thats all we can do.

I have every expectation to be a part of that. Id like for it to happen this year. I dont know anything beyond the next five days.

It wasnt a perfect game Carlos Marmol walked three batters and forced in a run in a close-your-eyes ninth. And a Phillies team (10-12) weakened by injuries has been hearing the boos, struggling to generate offense throughout April.

But the Cubs could laugh about waiting until Game 22 before an outfielder (Joe Mather) hit his first home run this season. The small-ball approach continued to work with Tony Campana (two hits, two runs and his sixth stolen base in eight games).

The rotation (4.12 ERA) wont stack up with Philadelphias. But the Cubs have been competitive, and theyve enjoyed watching Jeff Samardzija evolve into a potential frontline starter, and look forward to Ryan Dempster coming off the disabled list on Thursday.

Everyone feels pretty confident when (Garza) goes out on the mound, Mather said. Those guys are going out there and giving us a chance to win every single time.

It remains to be seen whether the Cubs can really run that momentum out into the summer, and give their fans reasons to watch, but Garza expects to enjoy the ride.

We got a lot of moving pieces, Garza said, but I think its going to be a lot of fun (with) a lot of youth (and) a lot of growing up.

Wake-up Call: Miggy gets the boot; Rodon's rocky debut; More bad news for Cubs?

miguel_montero_cubbies.jpg
AP

Wake-up Call: Miggy gets the boot; Rodon's rocky debut; More bad news for Cubs?

Where it all went wrong for Cubs and Miguel Montero

White Sox willing to overlook 'rough' patches as healthy Carlos Rodon returns

Kris Bryant’s sprained ankle is more bad news for Cubs: ‘You can’t cry about it’

Can Leonard Floyd break out in 2017? The Bears like the early signs

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: What's next for Blackhawks as free agency looms?

Preview: Cubs wrap up series with Nationals today on CSN

Preview: White Sox host Yankees tonight on CSN

Bulls Talk Podcast: An NBA gone wild and Zach LaVine sit down interview

How Rick Renteria has tried to help White Sox players combat travel fatigue

What pushed Theo Epstein over the edge in making Miguel Montero decision: ‘It screamed out’

 

White Sox willing to overlook 'rough' patches as healthy Carlos Rodon returns

White Sox willing to overlook 'rough' patches as healthy Carlos Rodon returns

The two fastballs that soared to the backstop on Wednesday night should give you a strong indication that Carlos Rodon was far from perfect.

But in making his first start of the 2017 season, the White Sox pitcher also offered his team plenty of signals that his health isn’t going to be an issue.

Rodon returned to the mound for the first time since last September and brought the goods that made him one of baseball’s top pitching prospects several years ago. Given he’d missed three months with bursitis in the left shoulder and the potential value he offers to a franchise only half a season into its first rebuild in 20 years, that was plenty for the White Sox to overlook the rust Rodon showed in a 12-3 White Sox loss to the New York Yankees at Guaranteed Rate Field.

“He started a little rough early obviously, got some high pitch counts,” manager Rick Renteria said. “And then he kind of settled down.

“Having him back in the rotation and getting him back out there on the big league field, coming out of there feeling good, healthy. I'm sure he will continue to get better as he continues to get out there and move forward.”

Renteria said he wasn’t surprised that Rodon struggled with his command as much as he did against the Yankees. The issues the pitcher displayed in uncorking a pair of wild pitches, walking six batters and throwing strikes on only 41 of 94 pitches were also present during Rodon’s four rehab starts in the minors.

But as long as the stuff was there, the White Sox would be OK with any issues that accompanied the performance. Rodon began to alleviate those concerns immediately when he earned a called strike on the game’s first pitch with a 93-mph fastball to Brett Gardner. Featuring a four-seamer with an absurd amount of movement and a nasty slider he struggled to control, Rodon checked all the boxes the White Sox hoped for from a pitcher they believe will be a frontline starter for years to come. Rodon also was pleased by how he felt before, during and after the contest.

“I was pretty excited,” Rodon said. “I was going a little fast in the first. But it was good to be out there. Next time out, it’ll hopefully be a little better. Arm feels good, body feels good, all you can ask for.”

Well, it’s not ALL you can ask for, but it’s pretty damn good out of the gate given how slow Rodon’s return took. His four-seam fastball averaged 94.9 mph according to BrooksBaseball.Net and touched 97 mph. His two-seamer averaged 94.4 mph and touched 95. And his slider, though he couldn’t control it, nor locate it for a strike, averaged 86 mph.

“You could see (Omar Narvaez) going over to try to catch some balls that were having tremendous run,” Renteria said. “That's (Rodon). He's got some tremendous life, he's just trying to harness it the best that he can and being able to execute where he wants to get as many strikes as possible.”

[VIVID SEATS: Get your White Sox tickets here]

The strikes were about the only thing Rodon didn’t bring with him. He walked Gardner to start the game and issued two more free passes after a Tim Anderson error allowed a run to score and extended the first inning. Rodon threw 37 pitches in the first, only 15 for strikes.

He also reached a full count to each of the batters he faced in the second inning. Rodon walked two more with two outs in the third inning after he’d retired six batters in a row.

And there were those pesky first-inning wild pitches that resembled something out of ‘Bull Durham.’

But all in all, Rodon and the White Sox ultimately saw enough in the first outing to be pleased.

“Great stuff, great life, but the goal is to put it in the zone and let them swing it to get guys out early,” Rodon said. “That’s not what happened. I’ll get back to that.”

“It’s a tough loss, but it’s better to be with the guys out on the field grinding than sitting on the couch and watching, for sure.”