Bulls

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.

Observations from Bulls-Lakers: Jabari's back in the rotation and Lakers fans get no tacos!

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USA TODAY

Observations from Bulls-Lakers: Jabari's back in the rotation and Lakers fans get no tacos!

The Bulls have now lost eight straight. The most recent defeat came in Los Angeles against a LeBron-less Lakers team, and there's not a whole lot to take from it. But we tried to find three items.

1. It was just one game, but Jabari Parker looks reinvigorated

Jabari Parker looks like he's back in the rotation to stay - or until he's traded - and while it was just a one-game sample size, he sure looks like he wants to remain there, too.

Parker's statline won't jump out in the box score but he made a few plays defensively and was arguably the Bulls' best offensive player. He hit a couple tough jumpers, made an important hustle play in the fourth quarter and finished with a jam. He wasn't outstanding defensively but played a few passing lanes and contested a few shots inside.

All isn't forgiven, and he isn't going to give Rudy Gobert a run for his money for Defensive Player of the Year, but it's about baby steps with Parker. Whether it's to help the Bulls progress as a young team, or to showcase his talents (we're using that word liberally) for a potential trade, these are seriously important games for Parker and the Bulls.

Part of his night came in that frantic stretch in the final minutes of the game (see below) and he finished with a team-high 18 points on 7 of 10 shooting, a pair of 3-pointers, 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals in just 17 minutes.

The better Parker plays, the more interest there is in him around the league. His contract still makes him a minimal asset and the Bulls can't expect to get much in return for him, but it beats him rotting on the end of the bench or taking minutes away from Markkanen or Bobby Portis.

2. Shaq Harrison rips out the heart of 21,000+ at Staples Center

If you're a true #AuthenticFan and stayed up through the end of the Bulls game you saw an incredible fourth quarter run in which the Bulls....denied Lakers fans free tacos.

Staples Center and the Lakers run a promotion where if the team wins and holds its opponent under 100 points, all fans in attendance get free tacos from Jack In The Box.

Fans looked to be in good shape as the Bulls had just 83 points with 2:19 remaining. From there, the Bulls' possessions went: 2 made free throws (85), layup (87), 3-pointer (90), dunk (92), one free throw (93), layup (95), 3-pointer (98). There were just 35 seconds remaining at that point, when Jabari Parker missed two free throws and gave the ball back to the Lakers.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope split a pair of free throws with 19.2 seconds left. And on the Bulls' presumably final possession, Shaq Harrison missed a 3-pointer, but Ryan Arcidiacono grabbed an offensive rebound and found Harrison on the left wing, who pump faked and drew a foul on Ivica Zubac.

Harrison made the first two free throws to give the Bulls 100 points and send fans home hungry. The entire sequence was amazing.

3. It doesn't get any easier for the Bulls

The Bulls have now lost eight straight games, four more than the second longest losing streak in the league (New York). And the road isn't getting any easier.

They'll finish this difficult West Coast road trip on Thursday against the Denver Nuggets, who were just embarrassed by the Warriors on their home floor. You can bet the West's top seed is going to come out and play with some serious passion. That spells trouble for the Bulls.

On Saturday the Bulls return home to face the Heat, who are all sorts of a mess right now. But that first game after a road trip is a seriously difficult one. That could easily be a loss.

Then the Zion Bowl occurs on Monday: Bulls-Cavs.

It's the Cam Payne revenge game and it's going to be glorious. The Bulls should win that one, but then again....the Cavaliers beat the Lakers in L.A. on Tuesday and the Bulls couldn't do that.

Joe Maddon states that Bryce Harper on Cubs "not going to happen"

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USA TODAY

Joe Maddon states that Bryce Harper on Cubs "not going to happen"

Per Jesse Rogers of ESPN, after being asked if the Cubs would sign mega-free agent Bryce Harper, Cubs skipper Joe Maddon replied “Not going to happen”.

This retort from Maddon falls in line with the stance that ownership has reportedly taken in the Harper sweepstakes.


The Cubs could no doubt use some help to boost their up-and-down offense but it looks like it won’t come in the form of Harper. As of now, the Phillies still sit as the front-runners for the mega-free agent after reports of a 5-hour meeting between the two side arose