Cubs

Mooney: Cubs can't change who Garza is

Mooney: Cubs can't change who Garza is

Sunday, April 10, 2011
Posted: 3:51 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MILWAUKEE Mike Quade and Matt Garza looked at the same game and came to completely different conclusions.

Quade sat in the managers office Saturday night after a 6-0 loss and riffed on how Garza will only be as good as his soft game. A few minutes later, Garza stood up in front of his locker and wished he had used more hard stuff against the Brewers.

There may not be a total disconnect, and its too early for real friction to develop. As Garza quickly reminded everyone, this was only Game No. 8, no time to panic.

But Garza can be stubborn and has a clear idea of what he wants on the mound and what he needs to do between starts. The Cubs cant change who he is, nor do they want to.

Hes going to be an aggressive pitcher, pitching coach Mark Riggins said. Hes going to come after the hitter. His location has to be on pretty good every pitch that he throws.

Garza blamed only himself and kept score in his head. He pushed Prince Fielder to an 0-2 count three times and lost each confrontation, the Brewers slugger putting three doubles and four RBI on the board.

Garza recalled six of Milwaukees eight hits coming off breaking or offspeed pitches. That along with an intentional walk burned Garza and offended his idea of what pitching should be all about.

They didnt beat me with my power game, Garza said. They beat me with the soft stuff.

Garza was supposed to benefit by moving out of the American League East and missing those loaded lineups at Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park.

Through two starts, Garza is 0-1 with a 5.68 ERA. Hes made hitters swing and miss (20 strikeouts). But when they make contact, there have been line drives all over the field (20 hits).

Riggins thinks its mostly location, but at times pitch selection has also become an issue. The conditions are in place for Garza to succeed. It will just take some time.

Cubs pitchers trust Geovany Soto and love throwing to their catcher. Carlos Pena Garzas teammate in Tampa Bay is there to run over from first base to try to calm him down. Garza can go over all the scouting reports, but he needs to see the National League up close and for himself.

He has his style of pitching. That style has been successful for him in the past and we have to make adjustments along the way, Riggins said. (Does) he need to make major adjustments? No, its just very minor stuff.

Its knowing the hitters and knowing what their approach is against him. He needs to recognize that and well find a happy medium (with) whats working for him and the club.

Riggins doesnt have any gimmicks. He doesnt try to sell himself as a guru. He listens and asks questions. The coach wants to know the keys or tells to a pitchers delivery, what it looks like when he feels just right.

With his eyes shielded by sunglasses, Riggins stands with his arms folded and watches a pitchers side session. He makes observations and suggestions and plays psychologist when necessary. He has a good relationship with Garza that will continue evolving.

Quades amazed by Garzas energy and intensity and thinks the 27-year-old pitcher probably didnt need to be so critical of his performance. The Cubs, after all, scored zero runs. And the manager doesnt see fastballs and the soft game as an eitheror deal.

Garza wont be judged by the radar gun. Hell have to pitch his way out of it.

His mix of pitches is going to be important for him to be successful, Quade said. The sooner he gets into a good mix, the better.

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

Feeding off their defense, Cubs starting to feel those 2016 vibes

Feeding off their defense, Cubs starting to feel those 2016 vibes

A year ago, the Cubs were struggling to float above .500, sitting 1.5 games behind the first-place Brewers.

Two years ago, the Cubs were10.5 games up on the second-place Cardinals in the division and already in cruise control to the postseason.

As they entered a weekend series in Cincinnati at 42-29 and in a tie for first place, the Cubs are feeling quite a bit more like 2016 than 2017.

The major reason? Energy, as Joe Maddon pointed out over the weekend.

That energy shows up most often on defense.

The 2016 Cubs put up maybe the best defensive season in baseball history while last year they truly looked hungover.

After a big of a slow start to 2018, the Cubs are feelin' more of that '16 swag.

If you watched either of the wins against the Los Angeles Dodgers this week at Wrigley Field, it's clear to see why: the defense.

"I like the defense," Maddon said of his team last week. "I'm into the defense. There's a tightness about the group. There's a closeness about the group. Not saying last year wasn't like that, but this group is definitely trending more in the '16 direction regarding interacting.

"If anything — and the one thing that makes me extremely pleased — would be the continuation of the defense. We've fed so much off our defense in '16. We've been doing that more recently again. We do so much good out there, then we come in and it gets kinda electric in the dugout. I'd like to see that trend continue on defense."

The Cubs scored only 2 runs in 10 innings in the second game against the Dodgers Tuesday night and managed just 4 runs in the finale Wednesday. Yet their gloves helped hold the Dodgers to only 1 run combined between the two games.

Wednesday's game was a defensive clinic, with Jason Heyward throwing out Chris Taylor at home plate with an incredible tag by Willson Contreras while Javy Baez, Albert Almora Jr., Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber all hit the ground to make sprawling/diving plays.

"[Almora] comes in and dives for one and I'm just like, 'OK, I'm done clapping for you guys,'" Jon Lester, Wednesday's winning pitcher, joked. "It's expected now that these guys make these plays. It's fun on our end. It's the, 'Here, hit it. Our guys are really good out there and they're gonna run it down.'"

The Heyward throw, in particular, jacked the team up. 

Maddon compared it to a grand slam with how much energy it provided the Cubs. Almora said he momentarily lost his voice because he was screaming so much at the play.

There was also Baez making plays in the hole at shortstop, then switching over to second base and turning a ridiculous unassisted double play on a liner in the 8th inning.

"That's what we're capable of doing," Maddon said. "In the past, when we've won on a high level, we've played outstanding defense. It never gets old to watch that kind of baseball."

The Cubs are back to forcing opposing hitters to jog off the field, shaking their head in frustration and disbelief.

"It could be so dispiriting to the other side when you make plays like that," Maddon said. "And also it's buoyant to your pitchers. So there's all kinds of good stuff goin' on there."

A lot of that is the play of the outfield, with Almora back to himself after a down 2017 season and Schwarber turning into a plus-rated defensive outfield.

After finishing 19th in baseball in outfield assists last season, the Cubs are currently tied for 6th with 14 outfield assists this year.

Schwarber has 7 alone, which is already as many as he tallied in the entire 2017 season.

"I feel like they'll learn quickly on Schwarber, if they haven't yet," Heyward said. "You gotta earn that respect. You gotta earn that sense of caution from the third base coach.

"But please keep running on me in those situations. I want it to happen."

Brandon Morrow has a healthy sense of humor about his pants-related injury

Brandon Morrow has a healthy sense of humor about his pants-related injury

Brandon Morrow's body may not be healthy, but his sense of humor sure isn't on the disabled list.

The Cubs closer had to go on the DL Wednesday after he injured his back changing out of his pants early Monday morning when the Cubs returned home to Chicago after a Sunday night game in St. Louis.

The story made national rounds, not only in the baseball world, but resonating with non-sports fans, as well. After all, it's not every day a guy who gets paid millions for his athletic endeavors injures himself on a mundane every day activity.

But it's all good, because even Morrow can find the humor in the situation, Tweeting this out Thursday afternoon:

Morrow's back tightened up on him and didn't loosen up enough the next two days, making him unavailable for the Cubs doubleheader Tuesday at Wrigley Field.

The team decided to put him on the shelf Wednesday morning so an already-gassed bullpen wouldn't have more pressure during this stretch of 14 games in 13 days.

The Cubs are in Cincinnati this weekend for a four-game series with the Reds. Morrow is eligible to return from the DL next Wednesday in Los Angeles as the Cubs once again take on the Dodgers — Morrow's old team.

The 33-year-old pitcher is 16-for-17 in save chances this year while posting a 1.59 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 25 strikeouts in 22.2 innings. He's only given up a run in 2 of his 26 outings as a Cub.