Garza sets his sights on October


Garza sets his sights on October

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.

Mateo update

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.

Scouting the Cubs' competition: The Braves are coming (but not yet)


Scouting the Cubs' competition: The Braves are coming (but not yet)

The expectations couldn't be any higher for the 2018 Chicago Cubs. 

It's 2016 all over again. The goal isn't just a trip to the playoffs or another NL pennant. It's World Series or bust for this group of North Siders.

With that, let's take a look at all of the teams that could stand in the way of the Cubs getting back to the Fall Classic:

Atlanta Braves

2017 record: 72-90, 3rd place in NL East

Offseason additions: Preston Tucker, Charlie Culberson, Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir, Peter Moylan, Chase Whitley, Grant Dayton, Chris Stewart, Anibal Sanchez

Offseason departures: Matt Kemp, R.A. Dickey, Jason Motte, Matt Adams

X-factor: Ozzie Albies

One of the youngest players in the league, Albies just turned 21 in January. He carries with him the pedigree of the game's No. 11 overall prospect entering last season and got his first taste of big-league life toward the end of 2017.

He hit well, posting a .286 average and .810 OPS while showing an advanced knowledge of the strike zone and providing some pop and speed.

Assuming he can avoid any sophomore slump and take another step forward, the Braves could actually surprise some people this year. But without Albies providing Ender Inciarte and Freddie Freeman some lineup support until a certain phenom gets to town, it's hard to see Atlanta contending.

Projected lineup

1. Ender Inciarte - CF
2. Ozzie Albies - 2B
3. Freddie Freeman - 1B
4. Tyler Flowers - C
5. Nick Markakis - RF
6. Preston Tucker - LF
7. Dansby Swanson - SS
8. Rio Ruiz - 3B

Projected rotation

1. Julio Teheran
2. Mike Foltynewicz
3. Brandon McCarthy
4. Sean Newcomb
5. Scott Kazmir


The Braves are coming, you guys. 

Maybe not now, but they'll be here soon enough.

2018 will feature growing pains for a young group of up-and-comers including the aforementioned Albies, plus Tucker (a powerful outfielder acquired from the Astros), Swanson (the 2015 No. 1 overall pick who's since fallen on tough times) and Newcomb.

Oh and there's some guy named Ronald Acuna coming up next. You may have heard of him.

The 20-year-old phenom has absolutely torn the cover off the ball everywhere he's gone the last 14 or so months and we'll see the game's No. 1 overall prospect in the big leagues in mid-April, God willing.

Once Acuna does come, it adds another level to a lineup that frankly comes up a bit short right now, even with Freeman (one of the best hitters in baseball) and Inciarte (one of the game's most underrated players). 

The Braves have a solid bullpen, plenty of rotation depth and a decent bench. It wouldn't be shocking to see them challenge for the second wild card spot, but true contention will probably come in 2019 for this bunch.

Prediction: 3rd in NL West, no playoffs

Complete opposition research

Los Angeles Dodgers
San Francisco Giants
Arizona Diamondbacks
Colorado Rockies
San Diego Padres
Miami Marlins
Philadelphia Phillies
Atlanta Braves

Podcast: Eddie O discusses what went wrong for Blackhawks this season


Podcast: Eddie O discusses what went wrong for Blackhawks this season

Eddie Olczyk joins Pat Boyle, Steve Konroyd and Jamal Mayers to discuss what went wrong for the Blackhawks this season, and what changes could happen this summer to get the team back into the postseason.

Listen to the entire HawksTalk Podcast here: