Preps Talk

Garza sets his sights on October

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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.

High School Lites Week 9 football roundup

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High School Lites Week 9 football roundup

High School Lites featured plenty of great action on Friday night as NBC Sports Chicago had highlights of many of the area's top matchups. Some playoff dreams came to fruition while others crashed and burned. 

Watch tomorrow as the IHSA playoff brackets are revealed tomorrow on NBC Sports Chicago+ at 8 p.m. Be sure to also follow us on Twitter @NBCSPreps for all of the latest IHSA football scores and highlights. 

DRIVE: Prairie Ridge: Episode 10

Wintrust Athlete of the Week: Back of the Yards QB Jeremiah Harris

St. Xavier Team of the Week: De La Salle Meteors

Friday's Top 25 Games

No. 1 Lincoln-Way East 18, No. 19 Bolingbrook 14 

No. 2 Prairie Ridge 55, Dundee-Crown 14

No. 3 Maine South 56, Niles West 9

No. 4 Marist 42, Joliet Catholic 14

No. 5 Lake Zurich , Mundelein

No. 6 Phillips 53, Clark 0

No. 9 Homewood-Flossmoor 50, Sandburg 14

No. 10 Barrington 40, Conant 19

No. 11 Huntley 45, McHenry 7

No. 12 Naperville Central 35, Lake Park 21

No. 13 Hinsdale Central 42, Hinsdale South 14

No. 24 St. Charles North 35, No. 14 Batavia 28

No. 16 Wheaton North 20, Waubonsie Valley 10

No. 17 Crete-Monee 52, Cahokia 8

No. 18 St. Rita 47, Marmion 14

No. 20 Lyons 31, Oak Park-River Forest 14

No. 21 Nazareth 48, Marian Catholic 7

No. 22 Oswego 30, Plainfield Central 0

Mount Carmel 35, No. 23 Providence 34

Other Highlights

Tinley Park 29, Evergreen Park 0

T.F. South 21, Oak Forest 14

Glenbard North 24, Neuqua Valley 14

St. Edward 29, Wheaton Academy 28

Marian Central Catholic 44, St. Patrick 21

Saturday's Top 25 Games

No. 7 Loyola vs. Brother Rice

No. 8 Glenbard West vs. Proviso West

Cubs will be open for business as Theo Epstein weighs trading hitters for pitching

Cubs will be open for business as Theo Epstein weighs trading hitters for pitching

Theo Epstein answered questions from the Chicago media for more than an hour on Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field, but the most interesting part might have been what the Cubs president didn’t say, something along the lines of: These are our guys.

Or at least Epstein didn’t give the same full-throated endorsement of The Core that he delivered after engineering the Jose Quintana trade with the White Sox this summer, getting an All-Star pitcher without giving up anyone from the big-league roster.

Whether it’s the way the Los Angeles Dodgers dominated the Cubs throughout the National League Championship Series that ended Thursday night, the inconsistencies and frustrations during a 43-45 first half of this season or the reality of losing 40 percent of the rotation, you walked out of that stadium club press conference thinking big changes could be coming.

“We’re going to pursue all avenues to get better,” Epstein said.

The Cubs already understood this would be a challenging time to dramatically reshape their pitching staff, with Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta, Big Boy John Lackey and All-Star closer Wade Davis about to become free agents.

The Cubs don’t really have many (any?) high-end, headliner prospects left to trade after borrowing heavily from their farm system to acquire Aroldis Chapman for last year’s World Series run and get Quintana to help solidify the rotation through 2020.

All of Major League Baseball is looking beyond this winter and preparing for the monster free-agent class that will hit the open market after the 2018 season.

Meaning it’s time for the Cubs to make some difficult decisions about all these young hitters they’ve collected.

“It may or may not be,” Epstein said. “Those choices, they’re not unilateral things. You can’t sit there and decide: ‘Hey, this guy, we’re moving him.’ Because you don’t know what the return might be. You don’t know how the different moving parts might fit together.

“I think going into the offseason prepared to make some tough choices and execute on them — and keeping an open mind to anything — is appropriate under the circumstances where we have some obvious deficits and we have some real surplus with talented players who are really desirable.”

Let’s assume All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo, MVP third baseman Kris Bryant and catcher Willson Contreras are essentially untouchable.

The Cubs used the ninth overall pick in the 2015 draft on Ian Happ with the explicit idea that the college hitter should be on a fast track and could be flipped for pitching later: Is it time to sell high after the rookie just put up 24 homers and an .842 OPS?

During an exit meeting with Albert Almora Jr., Epstein said he couldn’t promise an everyday job in 2018, though the expectation would be more responsibilities: Think anyone else would be interested in a potential Gold Glove center fielder who’s already playoff-tested?

Do you want Addison Russell or Javier Baez as your everyday shortstop for the next four years? Is there an American League team willing to bet big that Kyle Schwarber will crush 40 homers a year as a designated hitter?

The Cubs have to ask themselves those types of questions, which could mean getting outside of their comfort zone and taking on some riskier pitching investments and sapping the strength that has turned them into the dominant force in the NL Central.

“We’ve really benefitted from having two or three extra — and ‘extra’ in quotes because they’re not really extra — starting-caliber players on the roster,” Epstein said. “That helped us win 97 games in ’15, 103 last year, 92 this year. That’s as big a part of the club as anything.

“Having an Addison Russell go down and being able to move Javy Baez to shortstop — that’s an obvious example of it. But those things show up every week for us. There’s a day where someone can’t make the lineup and someone else slides in and you’re still starting eight quality guys. That’s huge.

“Sooner or later, you reach a point where you have to strongly consider sacrificing some of that depth to address needs elsewhere on the club. There’s no sort of deadline to do that. But I think we’re entering the phase where we have to be really open-minded to that if it makes the overall outlook of the team and organization better.”

Translation: The Cubs are open for business. Make your best offer.