Matt Garza had seen and heard enough that he had to respond on Twitter, calling out the “fake” Cubs fans doing “nothing but talk smack.”
Win or lose, Garza’s unfiltered press conferences had become must-see TV, but he hasn’t pitched for the Cubs in more than nine months. Maybe it was the doubters questioning his injuries or the here-we-go-again start to the season. Or just simply being a professional athlete in the age of instant access through social media and the 24/7 news cycle.
But @Gdeuceswild was simply “tired of so-called diehards being negative!”
“I just felt like I had to say something because it’s been all negative,” Garza explained Thursday. “The stuff you learn playing is negativity only breeds negativity. You got to change the culture, change the cycle and maybe it’s an awakening for some people.
[MORE: What will the Cubs do with Garza?]
“Oh well. If they didn’t like it, then sorry.”
Garza stood in front of his locker at Wrigley Field, the day after his first rehab start with Double-A Tennessee, where he threw 42 pitches and gave up one run in 2.2 innings. He’ll make at least two more starts in the minors – the next one likely Monday at Triple-A Iowa – before rejoining the rotation.
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It’s been a long road back, from the stress reaction in Garza’s right elbow last summer, to the lat muscle he strained during the team’s first full-squad workout in February, to the “dead arm” he had to get through last week, in what was supposed to be a platform year before cashing in as a free agent.
Carlos Marmol – who loves messing with teammates – saw him in the clubhouse and yelled out: “Garza, what the (bleep) are you doing here?”
Garza, whose return should give the team a shot of adrenaline, said he felt nothing more than the normal morning-after soreness. He’s not necessarily overanxious or oversensitive about the injuries. Those Twitter messages were more of a general commentary.
“(It’s) just knocking guys – and not just only here, but all over,” Garza said. “So, yeah, you have your right to be a fan, and you have your right to your own opinion. But so do I.
“I’m a ballplayer, but also a human. I have a right to voice my own thoughts. I didn’t think it was bad. Some people were like: ‘Good job, I’m glad you said something, because it’s getting pretty bad.’”
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Jim Hendry once tried to import some of those good vibes from the Tampa Bay Rays after the 2010 season, when the former general manager made Garza the centerpiece of an eight-player trade and signed Carlos Pena to that “pillow contract.”
Pena, a thoughtful player who once studied engineering at Northeastern University, preached his Zen philosophy and remembered a quote Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon put up for the Rays: “Fortune favors the bold.”
“That sums it up,” Pena once said. “This team is so unconventional, so unafraid to be themselves. They’re not consumed by following rules. Joe will be the guy who will bring six guys in the infield and (it’s like): ‘What is he doing?’ And he doesn’t care if it doesn’t work.”
[MORE: Garza gearing up for his next start]
The Cubs can never be the kind of blank slate the worst-to-first Rays were in 2008. This is a bigger market and there is too much history. But the possibility of a qualifying offer this offseason means Garza could still be part of the culture change here.
Manager Dale Sveum and pitching coach Chris Bosio appreciate Garza’s energy, stuff and work ethic. Garza likes to drop by Sveum’s office just to chitchat, maybe about their Oakland Raiders.
When a reporter mentioned to Sveum, who has vowed to never join Twitter, that Garza is an entertaining follow, the manager said: “I can only imagine.”
Garza also likes to post a photo of the white W flag after victories with the line: “Raise ‘er up!”
By Wednesday, Garza had to get something else off his chest on Twitter. He sent another message: “Can’t thank the fans enough for your support on this tough road back! Back to the grind! #GoCubsGo #thanksforyoursupport.”