MILWAUKEE Matt Garza keeps saying its gonna turn.
Garzas postgame media sessions are cant-miss events. Standing tall in front of his locker, or trapped inside the Wrigley Field interview roomdungeon, he doesnt point fingers.
Garza can be stubborn and cocky. Remember him announcing were right where we need to be after a comeback win last July left the Cubs 17 games under .500?
It was silent inside the visiting clubhouse at Miller Park after Thursdays 4-3 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers. Norichika Aoki had hammered Casey Colemans fastball over the right-field fence in the 10th inning, a shot that left the Cubs 19 games under .500 and wondering what was going to happen next.
We knew coming in that this was going to be tough, Garza said. It is what it is. Just keep going, keep playing and keep getting ready.
This could change by the end of July, but on Thursday morning this looked like a sellers market. Eighteen teams were at .500 or above, and could think about the extra wild card. The five teams in the American League East were separated by only four games.
Garza again looked like a frontline guy, allowing two runs in six innings. But Aoki who only had one inside-the-park homer in his first 129 major-league plate appearances hit one off Garza in the fourth inning.
Same old story, manager Dale Sveum said. Were getting great starts. Theyre going six or seven and giving up one or two and coming away with a loss consistently.
Thats kind of the way things are going. You expect (Ryan) Braun or Corey Hart or somebody else to hit two home runs.
Speaking broadly and not about a particular player general manager Jed Hoyer was curious to see what the landscape would look like leading up to July 31.
There is that delicate balance of when to strike, Hoyer said. Striking early, waiting to the deadline, it is a very tricky balance. Thats why you sort of have to have a price, a value in your head.
When its reached you feel like thats the maximum value you have to be willing to act. But it is a tricky thing and, frankly, thats why most deals get made at the end of July, because most people just tend to wait and they figure the price will go up.
Ryan Dempster has no-trade rights, but doesnt sound like hell be an obstructionist. Long-term, Theo Epstein has said the organization is betting for having a leader like Dempster on the pitching staff.
With free agency in sight, how far does this team look from contention?
I dont know, Dempster said. I really dont. I think we just got to focus on trying to win as many ballgames as we can. And its so easy to sit there and look at us at the bottom of the standings and dwell on that.
Or we can just try and get better every day and come to the ballpark and win today. Thats all that matters. Stranger things have happened. Theres been some teams in some bad spots before that have played themselves out of them and youre a lot closer than you realize.
Garza is the litmus test of what you really think about the Cubs, and there may not be an easy answer. He remains under club control through the end of the 2013 season, and Cubs executives know how difficultexpensive it is to acquire potentially elite starting pitching.
Garza has already made his bones in the postseason and earned a reputation as a big-game pitcher, but he has a career losing record and the Cubs havent won a game hes started since April 29.
The Cubs struck out 37 times during this three-game series, have already lost six of seven on this 10-day road trip and couldnt hold the lead after Bryan LaHairs pinch-hit, two-run homer in the eighth inning.
Its kind of black and white, LaHair said. Its not fun to lose. Were losing a lot, but we work so hard. So at the end of the day, if youre going to lose, at least you can look in the mirror and say to yourself: Did I give it my all today?
I really feel like everyone in this clubhouse is doing that and if we keep doing that this year, next year, just the way it keeps going I just think this clubhouse will click.
Garza wont be giving any concessions speeches, but he would be fun to watch in this uniform if things do finally turn. Heres how he broke down the Aoki at-bat, and why his personality might stick in an organization looking to play with a hard edge.
You just tip your cap, Garza said, and next time you face him, you go right back in there and shove it down his throat. Make sure he doesnt like trying to sit and spin on stuff anymore.