Cubs staying optimistic with Garza


Cubs staying optimistic with Garza

ST. LOUIS The Cubs didnt feel obligated to trade Matt Garza, and now its that much harder to see them getting maximum value by the July 31 deadline.

But the contenders will still be circling to see how Garzas elbow responds after getting pulled from Saturday nights game against the St. Louis Cardinals, a 12-0 loss that was 0-0 when he left as a precaution before the start of the fourth inning.

The morning after feeling cramps in his right triceps, Garza seemed to be in a good mood, and not just because manager Dale Sveum had approved his idea to dress up as superheroes for the flight from St. Louis to Pittsburgh.

He did seem to come in here today with a lot better frame of mind, Sveum said Sunday. Im very optimistic that hes not going to have to be on the DL, and hopefully even make his next start.

Garza spent almost three weeks on the disabled list last season with what was termed a right elbow bone contusion. He admitted that any pitcher gets nervous when you feel something in that area. Sveum thought this is a completely different part of the elbow. The Cubs should have a better idea by Monday.

It doesnt feel the same, Garza said. I dont think its a bone contusion, a bruise or anything like that. I just think its a cramp.

Its a stiff muscle. I had better movement today than I did yesterday, so thats a positive.

Garza is stubborn and competitive and would probably rather muscle up if it were up to him: I hate going on the DL.

That attitude is what pitching coach Chris Bosio loves to hear. There are compelling reasons to hold onto the 28-year-old Garza who remains under club control through 2013 and build a rotation around him.

Theres always a case when youre dealing with a young starting pitcher thats a horse and can dominate a game, Sveum said. Those are the million-dollar questions that an organization always has to deal with, and sometimes its almost like gambling if you do trade guys like that.

The gamble is (if) the guys you get in return can somehow fill that role, too. And you might get one, two, three guys that can be very productive major-league players. But we all know (about) those trades: Sometimes you get dominant guys, and sometimes it never works out.

This could change the odds.

Garzas next scheduled start would be Friday against the Cardinals at Wrigley Field. Thursdays off-day buys the Cubs a little more time. Justin Germano who was just acquired as insurance from the Boston Red Sox for cash would likely be next in line for the rotation.

The Cubs are already on alert for a Ryan Dempster trade, and waiting to get more information on Garza (5-7, 3.91), another difference-maker who might be able to swing a pennant race.

The trade thing, Im not so concerned about that, Garza said. If it does hurt the team, what they had in mind its not like I tried (to get injured). Id rather go out there and throw eight or nine (innings) and come up in here and say, Hey, I cant throw the ball (anymore). It sucks and Im just gonna try and get ready for the next one.

Why what Mike Montgomery did against LA could go a long way toward keeping him in the Cubs' rotation

USA Today

Why what Mike Montgomery did against LA could go a long way toward keeping him in the Cubs' rotation

Joe Maddon needed Mike Montgomery to get through at least six innings given the circumstances presenting the Cubs' manager before Game 2 of Tuesday’s day-night doubleheader against the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

Not only were the Cubs short a man in the bullpen (thanks to Brandon Morrow’s pants-related back injury), but Maddon had to use four relievers — including Pedro Strop for two innings — after Tyler Chatwood managed only five innings in Game 1 earlier in the afternoon. 

So when Montgomery — who had only thrown over 100 pitches once in the last two and a half seasons before Tuesday — saw his pitch count sit at 40 after two innings, and then 63 after three, he knew he needed to regroup to avoid creating a mess for the Cubs’ bullpen. 

What followed was a start that, statistically, wasn’t the most impressive of the five Montgomery’s made since re-joining the Cubs’ rotation earlier this year. But it was an important start in that the 28-year-old left-hander didn’t have his best stuff, yet didn’t give in to a good Dodgers lineup. And holding that bunch to one run over six innings was exactly what the Cubs needed in what turned out to be a 2-1 extra-inning win. 

“Especially when you don’t have have your best stuff, you always gotta — that’s when you really learn how to pitch,” Montgomery said. 

It’s also the kind of start that could be a major point in Montgomery’s favor when Maddon is presented with a decision to make on his starting rotation whenever Yu Darvish comes off the disabled list. Knowing that Montgomery can grind his way through six innings when his team needs it the most without his best stuff only can add to the confidence the Cubs have in him. 

Montgomery didn’t have his best stuff on Tuesday, issuing more walks (four) than he had in his previous four starts (three). He threw 48 pitches between the second and third innings, and only 25 of those pitches were strikes. Of the nine times the Dodgers reached base against Montgomery, six were the result of fastballs either leading to a walk or a hit. 

Even though the Dodgers were able to bother Montgomery a bit on his fastball, Maddon said that’s the pitch of his that’s impressed him the most over the last few weeks. 

“He never got rushed,” Maddon said. “In the past he would seem to get rushed when things weren’t going well, when he spot-started. Overall, fastball command is better — even though he was off a little bit tonight, the fastball command still exceeds what I’ve seen in the past couple of years on a more consistent basis. The changeup, really, good pitch. He got out of some jams but I think the fact that he knows where his fastball is going now is the difference-maker for him.”

Darvish will throw a simulated game on Wednesday after throwing two bullpen sessions last week. Maddon still doesn’t have a timetable for the $126 million right-hander’s return, and said he’s not entertaining what to do with his rotation until Darvish comes off the disabled list. But Maddon did mention Montgomery’s relative lack of an innings load — the most he’s thrown in a season in 130 2/3, which he did in 2017 — as a reason to perhaps not rush him into a permanent starting role the rest of the season. Going to a six-man rotation is a possibility, too, Maddon said. 

But the over-arching point is this: Montgomery will remain in the Cubs’ rotation as long as he keeps earning it. That can be the product of strong outings in which he has good stuff, or games like Tuesday in which he shows the Cubs the kind of resiliency most starters need to get through a full season. 

“I pitch well, good things happen,” Montgomery said. “I’ve always thought that. Opportunities, you just gotta make the most of them.”

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 28th + 29th homers in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 28th + 29th homers in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

For the second time in 1998, Sosa went back-to-back games with multiple home runs. After going yard twice on June 19 of that season, Slammin' Sammy again sent two balls into the bleachers on June 20.

He singlehandedly beat the Phillies that night, driving in 5 runs in a 9-4 Cubs victory.

But that wasn't the most impressive feat of the day from Sosa. His second homer was actually measured at a whopping 500 feet! It was the longest of the season, but not the longest of his career. On June 24, 2003, Sosa hit a homer at Wrigley measured at 511 feet.

The back-to-back big games raised Sosa's season OPS to 1.083 with a ridiculous .685 slugging percentage. He began June 1998 with a .608 slugging percentage.

Fun fact: Kerry Wood struck out 11 batters in 7.1 innings on June 20, 1998 to pick up his 7th big-league victory. As Wood marched to the National League Rookie of the Year that season, he finished with a 13-6 record and 233 strikeouts in only 166.2 innings for a career-high 12.6 K/9 rate.