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.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Cubs split Crosstown and Adbert Alzolay is called up

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Cubs split Crosstown and Adbert Alzolay is called up

Kelly Crull and Tony Andracki check in from Wrigley Field after the Cubs split the first leg of the Crosstown Classic with the White Sox.

Kelly and Tony discuss the breaking news of top pitching prospect Adbert Alzolay's promotion to the big leagues and what his role could be with the Cubs (2:15), and assess where the Cubs stand as they continue their long homestand, including the recent offensive downturn and Yu Darvish taking a step forward (7:30).

Cubs Talk Podcast

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Joe Maddon perplexed by the way baseballs are jumping this year: 'It's extraterrestrial'

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USA TODAY

Joe Maddon perplexed by the way baseballs are jumping this year: 'It's extraterrestrial'

On a mid-June night that felt more like the first week of April, the Cubs and White Sox combined for 2,029 feet of homers. 

As Leury Garcia hit Jon Lester's first pitch of the game 429 feet Wednesday evening, the reported temperature was in the mid 50s with winds blowing in from left field at 7 mph. That's not as chilly or windy as some of the games the Cubs have played this season, but it's still certainly not ideal hitting conditions at Wrigley Field.

Yet five home runs peppered the left and center field bleachers in the Cubs' 7-3 victory and prompted veteran manager Joe Maddon to bemuse about the way the ball is jumping around baseball today.

"Difficult conditions, but again — wind blowing in at a gale, it seemed, balls flying out easily," Maddon said after the game. "The home run that [James] McCann hit, my god, that just took off. You could actually see it from the field. You watch the flags [blowing in], it gets there, then all of a sudden it took off like a UFO. It stood still, then it took off. The first home run of the game, the first pitch, I mean my god, that ball went far. 

"I don't know what I'm witnessing. The way the ball is coming off the bat right now, it's extraterrestrial. It's like an ET kind of a thing going on out there. It's crazy. This is my fifth year here and I know what I've seen. Whenever the wind is blowing in like that, you don't see that. You don't see that."

Lester worked around those two homers from Garcia and McCann to pick up his 6th win, thanks in large part to the power supplied from his own teammates. Catcher Willson Contreras mashed his 14th and 15th homers of the season (after hitting only 10 all of last year) and David Bote smashed his 9th. 

Overall this season, the Cubs have been on an insane home run barrage, on pace to blow past the franchise mark for longballs in a year. Contreras reaching the 15-homer plateau puts five Cubs in that club this season. No other MLB team has more than three players who have reached that mark.

"I just know the ball's leaving," Maddon said. "I don't know if it's another year of maturity, but it's not just us. It's industry-wide. So it's hard to just say that we're the outlier with all this going on. I still want to see the better approach with runners in scoring position." 

Six weeks ago, Lester brought up the juiced baseball discussion after a start against the Marlins, saying he and other pitchers would like to know if MLB is juicing the baseballs. The league hasn't openly stated anything is different with the baseballs, though home runs are up at an astronomical rate across the board — in both the majors and Triple-A. And we haven't even gotten into the summer weather yet, when the ball really starts flying on warm evenings.

When asked for his thoughts on the baseballs Wednesday night, Lester shrugged it off.

"No comment," he said. "We can sit here and talk until we're blue in the face about the ball. It is what it is. Every pitcher in the big leagues has to pitch with it. You can comment on it all you want, but it just sounds like an excuse. I don't make excuses. Gotta make better pitches."