Friday, March 4, 2011
By Patrick Mooney
SURPRISE, Ariz. Matt Garza was already back on the rubber by the time the manager and the athletic trainer met him on the mound. He stretched out quickly, took a deep breath and felt the sting.
The body language said stay away, this is under control. The line drive left a bruise on Garzas lower back, but the Cubs pitcher can deal with the pain.
Jeff Francoeurs smash was scored 1-6-3 during Fridays 5-4 loss to the Kansas City Royals. Garza finished the second inning and then was removed as a precaution.
Itll be all right, Garza said. I got tattoos all over my ribs."
Garza has an edge. Thats become increasingly clear as he assimilates into the Cubs clubhouse. The grand prize in Januarys eight-player deal wants to blend into the background, except on the day he pitches.
Garza was in such a rush to get to Surprise Stadium on Friday morning that he forgot to pack his jersey and had to wear No. 94 instead.
This weeks dugout confrontation between Carlos Silva and Aramis Ramirez brought back into focus a similar incident with Garza and catcher Dioner Navarro in 2008. Those Tampa Bay Rays wound up in the World Series, after Garza became friends with Navarro and won an ALCS MVP award.
You guys all have families, Garza said. We see these guys eight, nine months out of the year. You cant tell me you dont ever get into an argument with your brother or sister. It happens.
I have a good feeling about us. We care enough to say something. If we didnt care and just swept it under the rug and players wouldnt say anything to (each other), thats bad signs for a team that wants to be in October.
Given those aspirations, the manager probably shouldnt need to call a team meeting before the fifth exhibition game, with the players organizing their own meeting the same day. But the Cubs are saying that there wont be any hangovers from the Silva-Ramirez dispute.
(With) the way it was handled immediately it had very little impact, Carlos Pena said. It was very easy to just brush off.
And so on Friday, Silva met with the media for nearly 13 minutes to explain his actions. And Tyler Colvin played first base in a game for the first time since he was a sophomore at Clemson University. The Cubs are back to work, even if Silva didnt need to become a three-day story.
Theres nothing else going on, Kerry Wood said. Theres nothing to write about. Honestly, spring training is pretty boring. We get it.
Wood said hes been involved in similar scrapes with teammates before the media just didnt know about it. He didnt give names: You shouldve been there. And he wouldnt say which stage of his career: Back when I played (here) the first time.
The Cubs are betting big on Garza, that he can be a front-line starter like Wood used to be. He says hes mellowed with age and learned how to channel his adrenaline.
Being 27 now and a father of three, its kind of easy to slow things down, Garza said. Its telling yourself: Is this how you want to be portrayed? Is this how you want to be seen? So of course I get angry, (but I) find a way to let it out.
Garza is driven and intense and not afraid to get in someones face. This is the code he believes should rule the Cubs clubhouse.
At least we know here that Im going to hold you accountable just like you hold me accountable, Garza said. Thats the way (it should be). When push comes to shove, I know hes going to have my back.
PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.