SURPRISE, Ariz. Matt Garza has the stuff to win 20 games and force his way into the Cy Young conversation. No doubt, he has guts and has come up big in playoff moments. But he hasnt quite put together an entire season like that yet.
It could be coming, because at age 28, Garza is right in his prime, already having answered the questions about how he would transition from Tampa Bay to life inside the Wrigley Field fishbowl.
But Garzas many personality quirks can overshadow how much he wants to win. There is only one goal.
October, Garza said. Thats it. If we get to October, then all the personal stuff will come with it. But, to me, team accolades are way more important. (Thats) getting us to a place where we need to be, where we should be getting back to October and fighting for a pennant.
So Garza really doesnt care if he gets the ball on April 5 against Stephen Strasburg and the Washington Nationals. Manager Dale Sveum is expected to (finally) announce the Opening Day starter on Friday.
It doesnt matter to me, Garza said. Im just excited to go play. So if its Demp, me, Samardzij, Voley, Lopey, (prospect Trey) McNutt even. It doesnt bother me. Crazy stuff can happen. (But) its not bashing (anything). It doesnt bother me as long as Im (one of) the five and I get to throw at Wrigley. Im not too concerned about it.
Garza went five innings and allowed three runs (none earned) in Thursdays 11-4 win over the Texas Rangers at Surprise Stadium. He sounded like ex-manager Mike Quade using nicknames for Jeff Samardzija, Chris Volstad and Rodrigo Lopez.
Its clear that Garza respects Sveum, whos compared him to David Cone, another big-game pitcher who liked to talk.
Hes a high-energy guy thats hard to get a grip on sometimes, Sveum said. I told him to leave the dugout the other day after one inning: Im tired of listening.
Hes not afraid to chirp at the other team, but its nice to have a guy like that who cares the four days he doesnt pitch. Hes not afraid to come in my office and B.S. a little bit. Hes just one of those guys who goes a mile a minute. You (have to) calm him down a little bit sometimes, but hes gotten to that stage of his career to be able to harness that.
Garza already has an ALCS MVP award on his resume, and hes strong enough to have made at least 30 starts in each of the last four seasons. His career numbers are 52-54 with a 3.83 ERA, but hes in line to get a huge contract, either here or elsewhere.
Opening Day or not, this is the potential ace. But Garza doesnt look at it like the Cubs season is on his shoulders.
Its on all of (us), Garza said. There are four more members of the rotation (and) I know were all going to push each other. Our job is to get 200 (innings) apiece. If we can accomplish that goal, then that means were pitching deep and were giving our bullpen a rest and were keeping our defense live and ready to go. Lets get this thing moving.
Marcos Mateo, whos been fighting for a bullpen spot, left Thursdays game with discomfort in his right arm. The reliever was to be examined at the teams complex in Mesa and scheduled to get an MRIarthrogram, according to a team spokesman. His season ended last July after he was shut down with right elbow soreness.