Cubs

Cubs dont expect Garza to tone it down

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Cubs dont expect Garza to tone it down

MESA, Ariz. Alfonso Soriano was trying to collect his thoughts when you heard loud beeping noises at the other end of the clubhouse.

The question was about Matt Garzas personality, and pretty soon everyone started giggling. Garza was alone at his locker on Tuesday, laying down beats and singing Im Sexy and I Know It. Soriano had to smile.

Whatever he does, people laugh, because thats him, Soriano said. Its not like hes done something wrong. We love him (the way) he is, because hes not a bad guy. The most important thing is when he pitches, he shows up (to) win."

Garza may not quite be misunderstood, but even he admits he takes some getting used to. Thats why the 28-year-old pitcher has been dropping by the managers office, to acclimate Dale Sveum to life with Garza.

He doesnt know how I am during the game, Garza said, how my reactions are, how heated I get. I want him to be able to see all that. Give me some time, Ill cool off and well chitchat, shoot the crap a little bit. Im just showing him that (at) my competitive level I (still) know how to draw the line.

Life without Garza a possibility that had to be considered while the Cubs dangled him on the trade market this winter would be far less interesting inside what has been a quiet clubhouse.

Garza allowed two runs in two innings during an 11-4 win over the Colorado Rockies. Sveum had to laugh when Garza was by the on-deck circle asking if he and strengthconditioning coordinator Tim Buss could go shirtless while running the warning track after his start.

Its kind of an inside joke, Garza said.

There were two interpretations. Either Garza saw a Rockies pitcher in a tank top, or the day before Ryan Dempster was caught running in a shirt that Sveum compared to a tight Speedo.

Either way, Sveum isnt going to tell Garza to tone it down (something that may have happened last year). The TV cameras will still find Garza yelling from the top step of the dugout.

I have no problem with that, Sveum said. Thats part of the game. You dont restrain that kind of stuff. You dont let it get out of hand (either). David Cone was like that (and) the four days David Cone didnt pitch were probably the most entertaining days of all. Theres nothing wrong with that. Its actually appreciated.

Garza spent a lot of time during last years camp with earphones on or a hooded sweatshirt pulled over his head. He was almost an island, the centerpiece to a blockbuster trade with the Tampa Bay Rays. He seems far more comfortable now, to the point where Sveum mentions him as a leader alongside Ryan Dempster and Kerry Wood.

Its just me, Garza said. Ive said it over and over and over again: I just like being out there. Its not fun to just sit there for nine innings, three hours, 160 times a year it gets boring. Im very antsy. I dont like sitting still. So why not have fun out there?

So Garza isnt Carlos Zambrano, though that doesnt necessarily mean the Cubs are going to hand him a huge contract extension, which figures to be a discussion sometime this spring.

Hes a huge piece the personality, the work ethic, (and) he cares so much about winning, Sveum said. The example he sets (and) how hard he works and competes on the mound (becomes) a huge asset (for) your organization.

Garza has pitched in the World Series before, and desperately wants to get back to October. He described Sveum as blue collar.

Thats what you need here, Garza said. We work a normal 9-to-5. We dont work 2-to-11. So in order to survive here, you got to be able to get up and put your work in like a blue-collar worker. Thats the way Cubs baseball should be.

Looking back on Rick Monday's flag-saving incident in 1976

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USA TODAY

Looking back on Rick Monday's flag-saving incident in 1976

"I would rather be remembered as someone who stood up and did something about something I felt strongly about, than as someone who just stood there and watched the parade go by."

When you least expect it, life can come at you pretty quickly. The way Rick Monday reacted 43 years ago in a Cubs uniform is still worth remembering.

The Cubs were playing at Dodger Stadium on April 25, 1976. Monday was in his fifth season with the Cubs and playing in center field. Steve Stone was the starting pitcher and in the bottom of the fourth inning, Monday heard something going on around him. Two fans ran onto the field and then past Cubs left fielder Jose Cardinal.

"Is it because they have a bet with somebody?" Monday said. "Is it because they've had too much to drink? Is it because they don't like you?”

The fans turned out to be protesters and one of them was carrying the American flag under his arm. As they laid down the flag and doused it with a can of lighter fluid, Rick Monday darted at them from center field.

"It angered me for a lot of reasons," he said. "First of all, you're interrupting the game. Secondly, now you're bringing out a flag and I was only about three or four years removed from being in the Marine Reserves."

Monday considered bowling them over if he got there on time, but the first match blew out as they tried to ignite the flag. Monday improvised. He scooped up the soaking wet flag and kept running with it. By the time he'd handed it to a teammate near the dugout, Tommy Lasorda let the protesters have a few choice words. At the time, Lasorda was the third baseman for the Dodgers.

"He [Lasorda] came running past me yelling about every expletive that a longshoreman would utter on a bad, bad day!" Monday said.

The fans were arrested, and when Monday came to the plate for his at-bat in the top of the fifth inning, the scoreboard in center field paid tribute with - "Rick Monday...you made a great play" and the California crowd gave the Cubs outfielder a standing ovation. One year later, they'd be cheering for him again. The Cubs traded Rick Monday in a five-player deal that brought Bill Buckner and Ivan DeJesus to the North side. Rick Monday went on to play a total of 19 seasons in the Majors. He was part of the Dodgers World Series championship team in 1981.

43 years after the flag incident, Rick Monday works in the Dodgers radio broadcast booth and that American flag is still a part of his life. He and his wife take the flag around the country while raising money for military charities. Monday says he reacted quickly that day because that's the way he was raised. Six years in the United States Marine Corps Forces Reserves only reinforced those instincts.

"It's a good thing I did get it, because I did not want any of my former drill instructors from the Marine Corps to come and say, 'Hey Marine! Why did you stand there and watch when they ignited the American flag?" Monday said.

An All-American play by a two-time All-Star outfielder

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Addison Russell goes 1-for-4 in rehab assignment with the Iowa Cubs

Addison Russell goes 1-for-4 in rehab assignment with the Iowa Cubs

Addison Russell is nearing the end of his 40-game suspension for violating the MLB's domestic abuse policy. He made his first rehab start with the Iowa Cubs on Wednesday night, performing quite well in the stint.

He was 1-for-4 with an RBI, one walk and a stolen base to boot in Iowa’s 6-4 win over the Nashville Sounds. Unless there any changes in the expected gameplan, Russell will be able to rejoin the big league club on May 3 at the earliest, when they begin a series against the division-rival St. Louis Cardinals.

Russell was a key piece of the 2016 World Series team but it will be interesting to see how he fits into the mix with Javier Báez in the midst of an excellent season at shortstop.

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