Sunday, April 3, 2011
Posted: 10:22 a.m.
Matt Garza won 15 games last season pitching in arguably baseball's toughest division, so the Chicago Cubs are excited about his potential in the National League.
Garza will make his Cubs debut Sunday when they close a three-game series with the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates.
Chicago (1-1) acquired Garza in trade with Tampa Bay in January, adding the right-hander to a rotation that includes veterans Ryan Dempster and Carlos Zambrano. The Cubs liked that the 27-year-old Garza set a career high in wins while posting a 3.91 ERA last year despite pitching in the difficult AL East.
"We have a guy we feel is in the prime of his career. He's pitched in arguably the toughest division in baseball the last few years," general manager Jim Hendry said. "This is a guy who wanted to pitch against the Yankees and the Red Sox. He wanted the challenge."
Garza, who pitched a no-hitter last year, has playoff experience after winning the ALCS MVP in 2008 when he won two games and helped the Rays advance to the World Series. His new team, which finished fifth in the NL Central in 2010, hasn't been to the World Series since 1945.
"To play baseball at Wrigley Field, I can't express what it meant to me to come here the first day, even driving outside," he told the Cubs' official website. "I could say, 'I'm a Major League Baseball player and I'm too cool for that' - no, I'm not. I was thrilled when I walked up that concourse."
Making his first career start against Pittsburgh, Garza will try to help the Cubs win this series after they bounced back from a season-opening loss by rallying for a 5-3 victory over the Pirates (1-1) on Saturday.
Chicago did all its scoring in the eighth, capped by Blake DeWitt's pinch-hit, two-run, two-out, bases-loaded double. The Cubs had five hits over the first seven innings after recording 11 hits - all singles - in Friday's 6-3 defeat.
"We finally put an inning together. Good for Blake DeWitt, it's a huge hit for him and for us," said Cubs manager Mike Quade, who got his first win as a full-time skipper.
Chicago is hoping it's the first of many wins versus Pittsburgh after going 5-10 against its division rival last year.
The Pirates will try to rebound when they hand the ball to Ross Ohlendorf, who is coming off the worst season of his career.
After going 11-10 in 2009, Ohlendorf struggled to a 1-11 record and a 4.07 ERA last season, although his one win came at home against the Cubs in June. Despite the disappointing year, which included two stints on the disabled list, Ohlendorf had success against Chicago, posting a 1.35 ERA in three starts.
The right-hander didn't have a promising spring, going 0-5 with a 9.82 ERA while giving up five homers and eight walks in 18 1-3 innings.
If Ohlendorf's spring was any indication, Pittsburgh's bullpen could be called into action early. On Saturday, Evan Meek was charged with the loss after giving up all five runs - two earned.
"We had the game and let it get away from us. But you know what? I'll hand the ball to Meek every time, and all those guys in the bullpen. Everybody is going to have bad outings," Saturday's starter Paul Maholm said.
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