Cubs

No worries: Garza is ready to roll

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No worries: Garza is ready to roll

Monday, Feb. 21, 2011Posted: 6:55 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MESA, Ariz. Matt Garza hasnt seen it all, but in baseball years, he seems to be an old 27. The former first-round pick has already been traded twice. Hes pitched in the World Series. Hes married with children.

The Cubs have no reservations about Garza. His medical records are clean and hes under team contractual control for the next three seasons. Thats why they gutted their farm system to acquire him from the Rays in last months eight-player deal.

Hes very intense, said first baseman Carlos Pena, a teammate in Tampa Bay. Youll be able to see it its kind of obvious.

You may have to wait until April 3 at Wrigley Field to see its full force. But in the meantime, it doesnt seem like you have to worry about hurting Garzas feelings.

Manager Mike Quade included Garza on Monday when he brought Ryan Dempster and Carlos Zambrano into his office. But Garza didnt feel like he needed to be in the Opening Day discussion.

(Quades) still trying to feel me out, Garza said. Im the type of guy where you dont have to tell me ahead of time -- just put my name on the board and Ill be ready. It really doesnt bother me and I told him that: Quade, its your team. You run it the way you want and you tell me when I need to throw and Ill be there.

The Cubs have spent a lot of time, energy and money wondering where Zambrano is at. They need someone else to stabilize the front of the rotation. Garza wouldnt have gotten to this point if he didnt have an ego. But hes not wrapped up in Opening Day appearances.

I really dont care, and I told Q that, Garza said. As long as he doesnt say, Well, youre No. 6 or 7, then it really doesnt bother me where the hell Im at. By the end of the year, its really not going to matter. As long as we end up in October, I dont care where I throw.

That may be a long shot, but the odds look better after the Garza trade. Across the past three seasons, hes won 34 games and posted a 3.86 ERA, numbers that should improve outside the American League East. At a minimum, the Cubs are counting on 30 starts and 200 innings.

Sometimes you want to get caught up in predictions and whos going to win what division and whos going to be in the playoffs, Dempster said. I always joke around: I booked my tee times for Oct. 4 because everyone says were not making the playoffs. But we still got to play the games (and) good things can happen when you unite as a team.

Garza has at least given fans a different reason for optimism. There may not be a direct cause and effect, but Cubs marketing chief Wally Hayward said Monday that the renewal rate for season tickets is above 90 percent. All hope is not lost.

Im pumped, Garza said. I didnt work all offseason for nothing. So its time to get going. Get the tires aired up and get the engine amped and lets get rolling, man.

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

Kris Bryant's 'fatigued' shoulder looms over Cubs, but they insist there's no cause for concern

Kris Bryant's 'fatigued' shoulder looms over Cubs, but they insist there's no cause for concern

This obviously isn't where the Cubs or Kris Bryant wanted to be heading into the final week of the regular season.

Instead of talking about Bryant's level of play or the Cubs' second straight decisive win on the South Side, the 2016 NL MVP stood near his locker, entertaining more questions about his sore left shoulder while he watched Tiger Woods lock up a victory at the Tour Championship.

Bryant did not suit up for the Cubs Sunday, out with what his manager Joe Maddon called "fatigue." 

"His shoulder's just a little bit fatigued. Not hurting, just fatigued," Maddon said before the Cubs' 6-1 victory. "So you want to be proactive. You can wait 'til tomorrow [to give him a day off], but then if you wait 'til tomorrow and something were to happen today, I'd feel really badly about that. 

"So just talking to him, listening to him and his body, we're gonna give him today off."

Maddon later described Bryant's shoulder "fatigue" as a lack of strength given the superstar has missed essentially two months of action due to the injury.

Maddon acknowledged the Cubs may play things safe with Bryant and keep him out of the lineup Monday, too, but would leave that up to the player.

Bryant insisted he will be in the lineup, telling the group of reporters several times that he already told Maddon he would be ready to go for the first ame of the homestand Monday night at Wrigley Field.

The 26-year-old admitted he just needed a breather Sunday after appearing in every game since returning from the disabled list Sept. 1.

"I'm still kinda in the early stages — I've had 60-something at-bats, which is like a spring training load, I think," Bryant said. "I wouldn't say I'm feeling something — I was just tired from playing."

He said he and the Cubs are just trying to exercise caution to ensure his left shoulder doesn't get any worse with postseason baseball a week away.

"I haven't had any pain or any of that, which is great," Bryant said. "I just gotta stay on top of my shoulder program and stuff like that, which we're doing, so that's good."

Bryant said he hit in the cage and went through a normal pregame routine Sunday, but instead of trying to catch up to big league pitchers throwing in the mid 90s, he got to sit back and let his shoulder rest.

The only possible concern there may be more at play with Bryant's shoulder is the timing of Sunday's day off.

Maddon said he was going to be cautious with Bryant when he first got off the DL and make sure he got enough rest, but then Bryant played every inning but two in his first six games back, only receiving a day off on Sept. 7 because rain washed away the game at Nationals Park.

Of the Cubs' 13 games since the other rainout in Washington D.C. on Sept. 9, Bryant started and played the entire contest in 12 of those games (he came in in the seventh inning in the other).

Bryant has had to utilize that left shoudler quite a bit since beginning his rehab four weeks ago, but he also received a day of rest just two days ago, when the Cubs had their only off-day of the month. 

If Bryant is back in the lineup on Monday, then this is all a moot point. And at the moment, there's no need to think the sky is falling and the Cubs will be without Bryant at all moving forward.

In fact, exercising caution is the right move given the potential danger that any one swing could bring the pain back in that left shoulder.

The Cubs woke up Sunday morning with a 2.5-game lead in the division and will maintain that gap into the final week of the regular season. There's no point in pushing Bryant to exhaustion or risking injury at the moment.

But if and when he does return, what type of force will he be in the Cubs lineup?

Since returning, Bryant is slashing .275/.346/.406 (.752 OPS) with 1 homer, 6 doubles and 5 RBI in 69 at-bats. He's also struck out a whopping 27 times (including a pair of 4-whiff games) against only 6 walks.

A healthy and successful Bryant is vital to the Cubs' World Series hopes next month and it will be interesting to see how much his shoulder becomes a talking point around this team over the final seven games of the regular season.

Cubs Talk Podcast: The timely emergence of the Kyles and a low level of concern about Kris (Bryant)

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: The timely emergence of the Kyles and a low level of concern about Kris (Bryant)

The Cubs reduced their magic number to five Sunday behind another stellar outing from Kyle Hendricks and a second straight game of encouraging offense from Kyle Schwarber. The emergence of the Kyles at the most critical point in the season should come as no surprise for two guys who have built their reputations as big-game performers, but what they’re doing right now is huge entering the final week of the season.

Meanwhile, Kris Bryant’s balky left shoulder is a talking point yet again. Is there any level of concern regarding the health of the Cubs superstar with October right around the corner? Kelly Crull and Tony Andracki discuss.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: