Cubs

Garza: Cubs will get up after being kicked in the teeth

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Garza: Cubs will get up after being kicked in the teeth

Matt Garza kept his glove over his mouth for nearly the entire walk from the mound to the dugout. You didnt have to read his lips to guess what he was thinking on Wednesday night at Wrigley Field.

In Garzas mind, he should pitch nine innings every time out. But a tie game was out of his hands now, and the Philadelphia Phillies would hammer away at the Cubs bullpen.

There is the image that Garza and the television cameras have cultivated. It could be talking to himself, or hanging over the dugout rail and yelling out onto the field. There are the sunglasses, the headphones and the hooded sweatshirt pulled over his head.

But for someone who seems ideally suited for a win-now contender, Garza sees the big picture. In his own colorful way, Garza speaks the same language as Cubs president Theo Epstein, preaching patience and player development.

Just listen to Garza after a 9-2 loss to the Phillies, when hes asked what a mostly young, inexperienced bullpen might learn after giving up seven runs in 2.1 innings.

Theres no easier way to pop up than after somebody kicks you in the teeth, Garza said. Youre pissed off and youre going to get back up and make sure it doesnt happen again. Thats the kind of guys we got, guys that arent going to quit, arent going to hide (or) put their tail between their legs and run away.

Theyre going to come back here tomorrow and work their butts off and make sure that crap doesnt happen again.

Thats what we need here. Every time Skip comes and takes the ball from me, I have no second thoughts, no regrets, no doubts. I trust these guys every time out. I hate when he grabs the ball from me, but at least I can trust the guys Im handing the ball to.

As much as Garza was being a good teammate, he knew he ran his pitch count high (107) into the seventh inning, and that manager Dale Sveum plays matchups.

With two outs, the Cubs had seen enough of Juan Pierre, who had bunted twice and the throws to first base seemed to have gotten into Garzas head.

Garza laughed it all off one was officially an error, the other was not saying that he slipped, he heard catcher Geovany Soto yelling Dont throw! and Pierre just got out of the box too fast.

Garzas review of flicking his wrist and throwing the ball into the ground: That was freaking hilarious.

Sveum was asked if this had become a mental thing: Im not a psychologist.

Garza who gave up two runs in 6.2 innings hasnt gone crazy while getting minimal run support and missing out on wins.

Shawn Camp who might be the reliever trusted most by Sveum allowed Carlos Ruiz to hit the go-ahead homer in the eighth inning. Michael Bowden who tried to get Scott Maine out of a jam gave up a grand slam to Hector Luna in the ninth.

(Bowden it's) his first time in the NL, so hes not familiar with any of the hitters, Garza said. Especially when its a guy that I didnt even know they had. I feel Im one of the most prepared guys and I had no clue they had Hector Luna on their roster. So its one of those things like Whoa. Just step back and take the positive things out of today and get back at it tomorrow and try to even this thing out.

The Cubs (15-22) are alone in last place in the National League Central, but that doesnt mean Garza wont fit into their plans.

Garza, 28, came up through the widely-respected player-development system built by the Minnesota Twins. He went to the 2008 World Series with the Tampa Bay Rays. He watched the Cubs crash last season and doesnt want to see it happen again.

I might be old in baseball time, but Im still young, Garza said. Ive just been (through) a lot. Ive seen a lot. Ive been to places where the organization was (near) the top. Players were first class. Thats just kind of what you emulate winners.

Ive been around the (Johan) Santanas. Ive been around (David) Price (and) some great arms. Ive been around some great veterans Torii Hunter, Rondell White, Cliff Floyd, Eric Hinske, Troy Percival.

Ive seen both ends of the spectrum, and I took what I wanted from them and just kind of wrote it off on these guys and keep them in mind (to) help them grow.

So for all the jittery energy and fast talking, there is another side to Garza. As Epstein once said, theres a method to the madness.

Why Cubs, rest of baseball sweat as MLB battles coronavirus testing issues

Why Cubs, rest of baseball sweat as MLB battles coronavirus testing issues

It was never going to be perfect.

But Major League Baseball’s coronavirus testing system needs to be good enough.

That may not seem like an especially high bar to set.

But so far it has been a difficult one for baseball to clear.

In fact, the latest example of baseball's biggest challenge in pulling off a 60-game season played out at Wrigley Field on Monday. That's when the team that by all indications has done the best job of establishing and following safe practices had its manager and five other “Tier 1” members of the organization sit out activities “out of an abundance of caution” because their latest COVID-19 tests, from Saturday, remained “pending.”

Tier 1, by the way, comprises the 80-something members of the organization with the highest access, including players and coaches.

The results had been analyzed. But as pitching coach Tommy Hottovy explained, they appeared to be in a batch of samples that included at least one positive test, the batch involving multiple teams. So they were retested. Five of those retested samples, including manager David Ross’, were negative, the team said late Monday, with the sixth considered “compromised” and another test done.

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The sixth did not belong to a player.

Give the Cubs another gold star for getting through yet another round of tests — and yet another glitch in that process — without having a player test positive.

But give MLB another kick in the ass. The testing issues don’t seem to be as bad as they were throughout the league that first holiday weekend of processing. But it hasn’t fixed this thing yet, either.

Whether it’s a lab-capacity issue, a quality issue or a shipping issue, it’s not even close to good enough.

Not for 30 teams barely a week from leaving their individual training-site bubbles to start playing each other for two months. Not when more than one-third of those teams play in locales considered hot spots for the pandemic. Not in the world’s most infected country.

“We do feel comfortable in this bubble that we’ve kind of created here,” said Hottovy, who was hit hard by the virus for a month before camp started. “When the season starts though and we start traveling and we start putting ourselves in some different circumstances, we just don’t know what to expect with that.

“We’re still taking this day-to-day for sure.”

Players across baseball, including Cubs star Kris Bryant, said they were upset and surprised at how unprepared MLB’s testing system appeared to be when camps opened. Two weeks of testing later, and just enough issues persist to make the league’s entire 2020 undertaking look more tenuous than ever.

The season starts July 23. That’s not much time to get it “good enough” — never mind to get it right. But, again, we're not asking for perfection.

The league protocols require testing thousands of players and other team personnel every other day through the end of the season.

Imagine sitting a manager and three or four players from a single team on a game day because of “pending” or “compromised” test results. Imagine that happening two or three times a week to various teams. Or worse — imagine a given team doesn’t exercise “an abundance of caution” and puts the players or staff in question on the field or in the dugout and clubhouse anyway.

“The only concern that I have right now is how long the test will take to get the results back,” Cubs catcher Willson Contreras said on Thursday. “Other than that, I don’t think I am at risk inside of the ballpark because the Cubs have been doing the best they can to keep us safe in here."

“I don’t have any concerns about my teammates, because I trust them. I know we all are doing our best to keep [each other] safe, and that way we can have a season this year.”

Contreras expressed tolerance with the system so far and was reluctant to point a finger at MLB or anyone else.

“But how can that get better?” he said. “I have no answer for that.”

It doesn’t matter whose fault it is as much as it matters that an answer is found quickly.

Players, staff and their families already have taken on the daily stress and anxiety of this health risk and the every-other-day process of holding your breath until the next result comes in.

“You get that test day coming up when you might get results, and it’s a little bit of that unknown, a little bit of anxiety of, ‘Have I done everything right?’ “ Ross said. “You start running back the day since you’ve been tested and what you’ve done, where you’ve gone, who you’ve been in contact with, just in case something bad may come back on your test. It’s real.”

Thirteen players, including Giants star Buster Posey, already have declined to play this season, all but one without a pre-existing condition that would qualify as “high risk” under the agreement between players and management.

Angels superstar Mike Trout heads a list of several more who have talked openly about opting out at some point, depending on how things look as we get closer to games.

That includes Cubs starter Yu Darvish, who said Sunday, “I still have concerns” and that he has not ruled out heading home if he doesn’t feel it’s safe anymore for him or his family to keep playing.

Maybe Trout, Darvish, Posey and the rest of those players have the right idea.

In fact, maybe we’d all be better off if baseball rededicated its testing capacity to a general public that suddenly is facing shortages again in a growing number of hot spots.

But if baseball is going to stick to its plan and try to pull off this season, then it needs to get this right. Right now.

Nobody’s expecting anything great at this point. Maybe not even especially good. But good enough? In the next week or so?

Would that be too much to ask?

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Blackhawks' Andrew Shaw announces he plans to return for 2020-21 season

Blackhawks' Andrew Shaw announces he plans to return for 2020-21 season

Andrew Shaw issued a statement on Instagram late Monday night, announcing he will not join the Blackhawks for the 2019-20 restart as he continues to work his way back from a concussion.

But the 28-year-old winger also revealed he plans on returning for the 2020-21 season and looks forward to coming back "better and stronger than ever!" 

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Here's the full statement, which has been lightly edited for clarity:

I just wanted to let all Blackhawks fans and hockey fans know that I am doing well and getting better every day! I feel healthy and am close to fully being healed from not just my last concussion but from others I have had over the years.

I've learned a lot about concussions and head injuries over the past few years thanks to the Blackhawks medical staff of Dr. Mike Terry, Mike Gapski, Jeff Thomas and Patrick Becker. They have helped me in more ways than I can thank them. I love them dearly for doing so because I am the type of person who would play through anything for my teammates.

With all that being said, along with my family who has shown me so much support, we have come to the difficult decision that these extra five months until next season would be great for my health and recovery. I look forward to being back next season, better and stronger than ever! There's nothing I would love more than to be back out on the ice with the boys battling for Lord Stanley.

I'll be cheering my teammates on and supporting the Blackhawks through this run! Love you boys and miss you like crazy!

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Go Blackhawks Go! Hey fans!

A post shared by Andrew Shaw (@shawz65) on

Shaw, who has two years left on his contract after this season, has a history of head injuries and last appeared in a game on Nov. 30. The NHL's tentative plan is to start next season on Dec. 1.