Cubs

'Inexcusable mistakes' doom Garza vs. Brewers

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'Inexcusable mistakes' doom Garza vs. Brewers

Saturday, April 9, 2011
Posted: 8:54 p.m. Updated: 10:45 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MILWAUKEE Matt Garza is aggressive and does not fear pitching to contact. He talks fast, direct and to the point. Thats why he found this to be inexcusable.

As Garza stood in front of his locker afterward, he rattled off the at-bats in his head. He got Prince Fielder to an 0-2 count three times and watched the Brewers slugger crush three doubles and drive in four runs.

By Garzas count, six of Milwaukees eight hits came off breaking or offspeed pitches. That made Saturdays 6-0 loss really, his two starts in a Cubs uniform something of an identity crisis.

Im supposed to put (Fielder) away, and I didnt do that, Garza said. Thats uncalled for. Thats not my style. Thats not who I am and thats something thats going to change. I havent had bad outings. Its just (that) I dont give up 20 hits in two games.

Except Garza just did that.

The Cubs didnt trade for Garza because the Brewers got Zack Greinke. The front office didnt even spin it as a total win-now move, because Garza would be a foundation piece for years to come.

But whoever winds up making the better deal will be telling. It will probably say something about the state of the National League Central.

Greinke fractured his rib while playing pickup hoops this spring and on Saturday threw his second bullpen session, which could put him back in the rotation by early May and change the division race. The Cubs are already down two starting pitchers.

Hours later, Garza made his first career start against the Brewers. You figure he will be making many more at Miller Park, absorbing the noise with the roof closed and feeling the adrenaline along with all those Cubs fans that drove up I-94.

In front of a sellout crowd of 42,478, Garza stalked off the mound with two outs in the sixth inning, the bases loaded and the Cubs trailing 5-0. John Grabow struck out Nyjer Morgan to end the threat, but by then the damage had already been done.

We are, I believe, eight games into the season, Garza said. There are 154 more. I highly doubt any of us are pressing right now. Its not September. Its barely the second week of the season. Theres no pressure, theres no pressing.

Through Garzas first two starts combined, he has given up eight runs on 20 hits. Hes also struck out 20 and walked only three, one intentional. Yes, thats only 12.2 innings, a sample size thats totally insignificant when weighed against what Garza did in Tampa Bay.

The Cubs are learning more and more about Garza. While Greinke has dealt with social anxiety issues, Garza is on the top step of the dugout, showing his emotions.

Hes animated. Hes quite loud, but he knows what hes doing, catcher Geovany Soto said. Hes a little hyperactive, but its good energy.

This isnt all on Garza. Carlos Pena struck out twice and left five men on base in his first two at-bats. And Brewers lefty Chris Narveson shut out the Cubs for seven innings.

But given everything the Cubs (4-4) have gone through this week, as well as the difficult road trip that lies ahead, they could have used the type of performance that once made Garza an ALCS MVP.

Really, the Cubs arent just waiting on Garza. Ryan Dempster and Carlos Zambrano havent pitched up to or beyond expectations either. And until they get rolling, the Cubs will be stuck in neutral.

I dont think you judge the group of pitchers that were counting on by two starts at the beginning of the season, thats for damn sure, manager Mike Quade said. They all have good history. Were not talking about three young kids that we cant count on. And guess what? If they dont pitch well, were going to struggle, and they know that.

PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Nationals 'love' Kris Bryant but potential holdup could stymie trade talks

Nationals 'love' Kris Bryant but potential holdup could stymie trade talks

With Anthony Rendon officially joining the Angels, the Nationals have a vacancy at third base.

Washington has options to replace Rendon; Josh Donaldson is still available in free agency, and Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant could potentially be had via trade.

The Nationals have reportedly inquired with the Cubs about Bryant, and while they “love” the 27-year-old, their focus is on Donaldson, according to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman. The Cubs would likely seek center fielder Victor Robles in a deal, a holdup on Washington's end, Heyman said.

From the Cubs perspective, it would make all the sense in the world to ask for Robles. He’s 22 years old, plays excellent defense (22 DRS in 2019, No. 1 in MLB by center fielders) and is only scratching the surface as a big-leaguer. Robles is projected to be a star, but Bryant already is one. If the Nationals want Bryant badly enough, they’ll have to sacrifice talent in a deal.

On the other hand, it’s easy to understand why Washington would be unwilling to trade Robles, who's under team control through 2024. Bryant will hit free agency after 2021, but if he wins his ongoing grievance case, he'll hit the open market after next season.

Nonetheless, if the Nationals do engage in Bryant trade talks, you can bet the Cubs will at least ask for Robles in return. A trade could be worked out without him, but for a Cubs team searching better center field production, you've got to wonder who could be more enticing than Robles.

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Willson Contreras and his boundless energy join Cubs All-Decade Team

Willson Contreras and his boundless energy join Cubs All-Decade Team

With the 2010s coming to a close, NBC Sports Chicago is unveiling its Cubs All-Decade Team, highlighting the players who made the biggest impacts on the organization from 2010-19.

It didn’t take long for Willson Contreras to introduce himself to Major League Baseball. On the first pitch he saw as a big-leaguer, the Cubs catcher cranked a two-run home run to center field — on Sunday Night Baseball, nonetheless.

That moment was a sign of things to come for Contreras, who has since established himself as one of the best catchers in baseball. The 27-year-old holds a career .267/.350/.470 line with a 117 wRC+ and 67 home runs in four seasons. He’s started back-to-back All-Star Games, the first Cubs catcher to do so since Gabby Hartnett (1937-38).

Contreras offers so much to the Cubs besides his bat. His cannon of an arm and athleticism behind the plate are integral to the Cubs controlling opposing run games. His pitch framing is a work in progress, and admittedly, he could improve in this area by throwing behind runners less, ensuring he gets strikes called.

However, back-picking is part of Contreras’ value. He may lose some strike calls by not sticking a frame, but there've been plenty of occasions where Contreras' arm has provided the Cubs with a spark. His boundless energy is unmeasurable, but its importance to the Cubs — who feed off of it — cannot be overstated.

There are areas where Contreras can improve, and that's a scary thought. But he's already is one of the best backstops in baseball and has earned the starting catcher spot on our Cubs All-Decade Team.

Also considered: Welington Castillo, Miguel Montero, David Ross, Geovany Soto