Cubs

Garza talks stolen ALCS ring, future with Cubs

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Garza talks stolen ALCS ring, future with Cubs

Matt Garza has remained in the headlines all winter. The trade rumors don't bother the Cubs pitcher, who's only 28 years old and already on his third team. He understands this is a business.

What stunned Garza was finding out that his 2008 American League championship ring was stolen from his California home in late January. The Fresno Bee reported that the diamond-studded ring was valued at 30,000 and engraved with his name. He earned it on the miracle Tampa Bay Rays team that went to the World Series one year after losing 96 games.

"Everything's still just kind of one big blur," Garza said over the phone. "Me and my wife went through the house and they really didn't take anything else of monetary value. (It) was more of the shock. That's kind of what got us just the sentimental value of those items that were taken. But we're just glad that no one got hurt and we're all safe. Those things can be replaced."

The Garza interview ran Tuesday on "Chicago Baseball Hot Stove." The day before, Garza spoke with CSNs Chuck Garfien while driving through California on the way to the Cubs complex in Arizona.

While the media constantly speculated about where he might be traded next, Garza had enjoyed spending most of the offseason with his family in the Chicago area. His mother had taken his grandparents by his Fresno County home when they discovered the break-in.

She walked around the backyard before going inside, Garza said, just to see how the landscapers have been doing and stuff like that, just checking out my house. And she noticed the back bay window was shattered. So they went through the front door (and) saw an attic open and she called the cops."

Garza developed into a first-round pick at Fresno State University and grew up in the area. He said he doesnt know whos responsible for the burglary.

I don't want to accuse anybody of anything, Garza said. It's just not the thing to do. You (make) one accusation and it just snowballs, so that can never be a good thing. I trust that neighbors (would) do what all neighbors do, and that's report (whatever they see). Neighbors have told me (before and) watched over my home. They're very (trustworthy) people.

"It's not like (the ring is) just going to pop up. I hope it would, that would be awesome. But they're doing their police work and (asking) questions. We've gone over many things, all the situations and scenarios.

Last week, Garza avoided an arbitration hearing and agreed to a one-year, 9.5 million deal, plus performance bonuses. He will also remain under club control for the 2013 season.

Theo Epstein has described Garza as exactly the type of pitcher youd like to build around, and mentioned the possibility of a contract extension, though its unclear just how far those talks progressed.

The Cubs president of baseball operations also has a five- to 10-year plan that might not exactly match Garzas timeline. Epstein once watched Garza eliminate the Boston Red Sox and win the 2008 ALCS MVP award. A proven playoff pitcher would be an attractive chip at the trade deadline this summer.

Does he want to be here long-term?

"Yeah, why not? Garza said. It's a great organization to play for, with a lot of history, a lot of tradition and there's great support from up top. What more can you ask for in an organization?

Everybody who comes to Chicago knows about the city. It's amazing. It's so diverse. There's so much you can teach (your kids here). The fans are some of the greatest. They're true diehard fans. To be a fan of a team that hasn't won in (103) years you can't say (much more than that). They're the most loyal fans in baseball.

Garza will likely begin the season in a Cubs uniform, on a team with almost no expectations, but its unclear where it will all end. A big-game pitcher has already been part of a team that shocked the world.

"There's a lot of excitement and buzz, Garza said. There (are) a lot of hungry, hungry, hungry young guys who want to show what they can do. And like I said back in January (at the Cubs Convention), with young kids a lot of things (can) happen. It's going to be a lot of fun to be down there and get things going.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Jon Lester struggles against the division-rival Cardinals

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Jon Lester struggles against the division-rival Cardinals

It was a tough day for the North Siders.

The Cubs got obliterated by the Cardinals as Matt Carpenter had a three-homer, two-double day. Ben Finfer, Seth Gruen and Maggie Hendricks join David Kaplan on the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast to talk about the blowout.

Was Jon Lester due for this kind of terrible outing? And do the Cubs have enough to swing a big trade before the deadline?

Plus, the panel discusses Matt Nagy’s first training camp practice in the rain and Roquan Smith’s absence in Bourbonnais.

You can listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Jon Lester saw a start like this coming

Jon Lester saw a start like this coming

Jon Lester had easily his worst outing of the year, allowing the Cardinals to score eight runs on seven hits, the veteran All-Star only managed three innings before Joe Maddon turned to his bullpen. 

The Cardinals would take game two of the series by the score of 18 to 5, and while none of the Cubs pitchers could silence the Cardinal bats, Lester didn't shy away from his poor outing. 

"You know, I don't want to chalk this up as bad days happen," said Lester. "I think mechanically this has kinda been coming." 

Lester knew he was struggling to hit his spots, and while his ERA was a sparkling 2.58 coming into this start, his peripheral stats had him pegged as a potential regression candidate in the second half of the season.

His 4.35 FIP and 3.30 walks per nine innings show a pitcher who is relying heavily on his defense to get outs, which isn't surprising for a 33-year-old veteran but the walks are a concern. 

Cubs manager Joe Maddon was aware Lester had been working on his mechanics, but even he was surprised that Lester's start went downhill so quickly. 

"I thought he had good stuff to start the game, hitting [92-93 mph] and I'm thinking this might be a good day," said Maddon. "But you could just see from the beginning he was off just a little bit." 

Over Lester's last four starts his ERA has been an uncharacteristic 4.57, issuing 10 walks over those four starts, and only making it past the 6th inning once. At this point of Lester's career, he knows the best way for him to get outs isn't through strikeouts but by inducing soft contact and avoiding walks. 

And while both his hard contact rate and walks have increased this season, Lester's experience and high baseball I.Q. has allowed him to navigate his way through sticky situations. 

"I've been getting outs," Lester said candidly. "I just feel like when I've had that strikeout or I have a guy set up for that pitch I haven't been able to execute it." 

And while this outing was one to forget, it's at least a positive sign that Lester is aware of his issues on the mound. The veteran knows how to get outs and he knows what he needs to do to be successful in the latter part of his career. He just needs to get back to executing those pitches. 

Just don't expect Lester to dive head first into the analytics on how to fix his issues, he'll stick to hard work and baseball common sense. 

"I'm not too concerned with the analytic B.S., I'm worried about my mechanical fix for my next start."