PITTSBURGH – The Cubs have so many moving parts to their business/baseball plans for 2015 and beyond.
Navigating Chicago politics to get Wrigley Field renovated. Hoping the sports rights bubble doesn’t burst before their next TV deals. Scouting teenagers and college kids and guessing what types of players they’ll be years from now.
But amid all these financial forecasts and what-if scenarios, the Cubs might already have two guys you’d want starting Games 1 and 2 of the World Series.
That’s an aggressive, best-case, hitting-the-jackpot outlook. But does it really matter? As much fun as it was watching Matt Garza and Jeff Samardzija on back-to-back nights at PNC Park, the Cubs still lost both games, making you wonder how long the front office will keep it together.
“Once again, we just seem to waste these kind of starting outings,” manager Dale Sveum said after a 1-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. “It’s just unbelievable how these kind of things happen – to have this kind of starting pitching and we just can’t score any runs.”
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The night after Garza took a no-hitter into the fifth inning during his first major-league start in 10 months, Samardzija looked like the guy who shut down the Pirates (28-18) on Opening Day.
The problem is Samardzija (2-6, 3.25 ERA) has only one other win since April 1. In building this team, the Cubs (18-27) also hoped they wouldn’t have to wait until almost Memorial Day to see Garza/Samardzija pitch back-to-back, with nearly 30 percent of the season already complete.
Chris Bosio – who used to work with Sveum for the Milwaukee Brewers as an advance scout and pitching coach – has made comparisons to December 2010. That’s when the Brewers strengthened their rotation by trading for Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum, finishing pieces for a team that would win 96 games and the National League Central.
Standing in a hallway off the clubhouse, the Cubs pitching coach smiled and said: “Hey, ‘The Garza Show’ is back.” It’s unclear where the Cubs are on their timeline, or if it makes sense to build around the 29-year-old pitcher.
“Right now, Matt Garza is a starter for the Chicago Cubs,” Bosio said. “That helps us out in the rotation. That’s big, because we all know the kind of pitcher he’s capable of being, and that he’s shown flashes of. This is the start of – I think – special things to come.
“It was a huge steppingstone for both (sides) last night – just to get him back out there. And for the Cubs fans, too. This guy’s fun to watch.”
There was a noticeable contingent of scouts at PNC Park on Tuesday night watching Garza, who could wind up being the valuable trade chip everyone thought he’d be last July, until he injured his right elbow.
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Garza rededicated himself during the offseason and reported to camp in excellent shape. He would run Camelback Mountain in Phoenix and started a swimming program designed to increase his flexibility and endurance. He then strained a lat muscle during the team’s first full-squad workout in February.
Bosio appreciated how Garza controlled his emotions and the tempo in his first start, consistently hitting 94 mph and piecing together five scoreless innings before reaching his pitch count.
“This guy’s worked his tail off,” Bosio said. “There are so many things that this guy’s done to get back (and) I couldn’t be happier for him because of the expectations that he has on himself and the hope that he gives us as an organization. This is a big-time starting pitcher with really good stuff.”
Samardzija enjoys watching Garza and taking notes on how to attack hitters. They’re both power pitchers with big personalities who like to bounce ideas off each other.
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“It’s exciting,” said Samardzija, who allowed only one run on three hits across seven innings and struck out eight. “We’re look forward to going out (there) these next couple months and really getting into a good groove with our starting pitchers.”
The truth is the rotation has performed all season and the Cubs are still tied for last place with the Brewers. Garza will be a free agent after this season and the possibility of a qualifying offer could change the calculus. Assuming good health, it will be a difficult decision leading up to the trade deadline.
“It all comes down to where we’re at in the organization and what we feel is the right thing to do at the right time,” Sveum said.