Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2011
Posted: 12:35 a.m. Updated: 1:40 a.m.
By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com Cubs Insider Follow @CSNMooney
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SAN DIEGO Matt Garza isnt the type to look back with regrets or reflect on what got him here. He has difficulty standing still at his locker during an interview that lasts three minutes. He is ready to move on.
Garza a pitcher who made his big-game reputation in October has watched the Tampa Bay Rays storm back this September. His old team heads into Game No. 162 bursting with confidence, tied with the Boston Red Sox in the wild-card race.
No hard feelings? Never.
If you get traded to some team in Madagascar, Garza said, then Im going to have a problem. But I dont. As long as I get to play, then Im fine.
Tampa Bay used to be baseballs Siberia. But the Rays have built a machine, a model the Cubs will no doubt study as they search for their next general manager. The Cubs want to be leaner, more efficient, less emotional in their decision-making process.
Garza is fueled by adrenaline. But instead of enjoying the heat of a pennant race, he was stuck in another meaningless game on the second-to-last day of the season. This one didnt follow the pattern: Pitch well, but lose.
Garzas luck turned when Alfonso Soriano launched a late three-run homer that lifted the Cubs to a 6-2 victory over the San Diego Padres on Tuesday night at PETCO Park. So ends an entertaining first season for a guy manager Mike Quade once described as my kind of lunatic.
Theres no doubt that Garza who gave up two runs in seven innings wants the ball. Across his final three starts, he threw 124, 123 and 122 pitches. He accounted for 31 starts and finished with a 3.32 ERA and 197 strikeouts in 198 innings.
For as tough a season as its been at times, where the hell would we be without him? Quade said. I believe he anchors this staff as we move on, (that) hes capable of much better. I dont think hes a .500 pitcher. I dont think you see that down the road.
Garza seemed like he was on an island in the clubhouse during spring training, a hooded sweatshirt pulled over his head and headphones plugged into his ears. He was 27 years old and had already been traded twice.
But there is perception and something closer to reality. Take Garzas record, which settles at 10-10, even though seven times this season he left with the lead and didnt factor into the decision.
Garza definitely seemed to warm up as the season wore on. Teammates get a kick out of his wacky energy. No one seemed more excited about dressing up the rookies in ridiculous outfits and hazing them for Sundays flight from St. Louis to San Diego.
The television cameras found Garza rooting from the top step of the dugout and screaming into his glove after he was taken out of the game.
Everybody loves him, Soriano said. No matter how he pitched, the next day hes there for us cheering and (showing) some emotion to everybody. Hes one of the best in the clubhouse here.
It will take years to complete the audit of this eight-player blockbuster deal with Tampa Bay last winter.
But the Cubs now have a frontline starter who still feels like hes learning how to pitch under team control for the next two seasons. They wont find anyone better or more cost-effective on the market this winter.
If youre a fan still paying attention at this point, then the Cubs (71-90) might seem closer to Madagascar than the playoffs. If they get back there anytime soon, then Garza will almost certainly be a driving force behind it.
Im not happy that were not playing in October, but Im just going to take what I did and let it keep rolling, Garza said. I hope to make it better. (Its) another year under my belt, a couple more lessons learned. (And) for me, I think the skys the limit. Im just going to keep trying to build until I get there.Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.