Cubs

Garza channels the adrenaline in his own way

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Garza channels the adrenaline in his own way

Friday, March 4, 2011
7:20 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

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.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Sitting down with new Cubs coaches Chili Davis and Jim Hickey

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Sitting down with new Cubs coaches Chili Davis and Jim Hickey

Spring training baseball games are up around the bend, but before the boys of summer get into organized action, two of the team’s new coaches Chili Davis and Jim Hickey sit down with Kelly Crull.

Plus, Vinnie Duber joins Kelly to discuss these baseball conversations including the memorable first words of Kyle Schwarber to Chili Davis, “I don’t suck!"

Listen to the full episode at this link (iOS users can go here) or in the embedded player below. Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts.

Changes aren't exactly popular, but Cubs and Sox — except maybe Willson Contreras — will adapt to baseball's new pace-of-play rules

Changes aren't exactly popular, but Cubs and Sox — except maybe Willson Contreras — will adapt to baseball's new pace-of-play rules

MESA, Ariz. — We know Willson Contreras doesn’t like baseball’s new pace-of-play rules.

He isn’t the only one.

“I think it’s a terrible idea. I think it’s all terrible,” Jon Lester said last week at spring training, before the specifics of the new rules were even announced. “The beautiful thing about our sport is there’s no time.”

Big surprise coming from the Cubs’ resident old-schooler.

The new rules limit teams to six mound visits per every nine-inning game, with exceptions for pitching changes, between batters, injuries and after the announcement of a pinch hitter. Teams get an extra mound visit for every extra inning in extra-inning games. Also, commercial breaks between innings have been cut by 20 seconds.

That’s it. But it’s caused a bit of an uproar.

Contreras made headlines Tuesday when he told reporters that he’ll willingly break those rules if he needs to in order to put his team in a better position to win.

“I’ve been reading a lot about this rule, and I don’t really care. If I have to pay the price for my team, I will,” Contreras said. “There’s six mound visits, but what if you have a tight game? … You have to go out there. They cannot say anything about that. It’s my team, and we just care about winning. And if they’re going to fine me about the No. 7 mound visit, I’ll pay the price.”

Talking about pace-of-play rule changes last week, Cubs manager Joe Maddon said his team would adapt to any new rules. In Chicago baseball’s other Arizona camp, a similar tune of adaptation was being sung.

“Obviously as players we’ve got to make adjustments to whatever rules they want to implement,” White Sox pitcher James Shields said. “This is a game of adjustments, we’re going to have to make adjustments as we go. We’re going to have to figure out logistics of the thing, and I would imagine in spring training we’re going to be talking about it more and more as we go so we don’t mess it up.”

There was general consensus that mound visits are a valuable thing. So what happens if a pitcher and catcher need to communicate but are forced to do it from 60 feet, six inches away?

“Sign language,” White Sox catching prospect Zack Collins joked. “I guess you have to just get on the same page in the dugout and hope that nothing goes wrong if you’re out of visits.”

In the end, here’s the question that needs answering: Are baseball games really too long?

On one hand, as Lester argued, you know what you’re signing up for when you watch a baseball game, be it in the stands at a ballpark or on TV. No one should be shocked when a game rolls on for more than three hours.

But shock and fans' levels of commitment or just pure apathy are two different things. And sometimes it’s a tough ask for fans to dedicate four hours of their day 162 times a year. So there’s a very good reason baseball is trying to make the game go faster, to keep people from leaving the stands or flipping the TV to another channel.

Unsurprisingly, Lester would rather keep things the way they are.

“To be honest with you, the fans know what they’re getting themselves into when they go to a game,” Lester said. “It’s going to be a three-hour game. You may have a game that’s two hours, two hours and 15 minutes. Great, awesome. You may have a game that’s four hours. That’s the beautiful part of it.

“I get the mound visit thing. But what people that aren’t in the game don’t understand is that there’s so much technology in the game, there’s so many cameras on the field, that every stadium now has a camera on the catcher’s crotch. So they know signs before you even get there. Now we’ve got Apple Watches, now we’ve got people being accused of sitting in a tunnel (stealing signs). So there’s reasons behind the mound visit. He’s not just coming out there asking what time I’m going to dinner or, ‘Hey, how you feeling?’ There’s reasons behind everything, and I think if you take those away, it takes away the beauty of the baseball game.

“Every game has a flow, and I feel like that’s what makes it special. If you want to go to a timed event, go to a timed event. I’m sorry I’m old-school about it, but baseball’s been played the same way for a long time. And now we’re trying to add time to it. We’re missing something somewhere.”

Whether limiting the number of mound visits creates a significant dent in this problem remains to be seen. But excuse the players if they’re skeptical.

“We’ve got instant replay, we’ve got all kinds of different stuff going on. I don’t think (limiting) the mound visits are going to be the key factor to speeding this game up,” Shields said. “Some pitchers take too long, and some hitters take too long. It’s combination of a bunch of stuff.

“I know they’re trying to speed the game up a little bit. I think overall, the game’s going as fast as it possibly could. You’ve got commercials and things like that. TV has a lot to do with it. There’s a bunch of different combinations of things. But as a player, we’ve got to make an adjustment.”