Matt Garza, a fiery type, was pretty angry this weekend, following his second consecutive outing where he gave up an inordinate amount of hits. Specifically, Garza was upset that the Brewers were taking advantage of his off-speed offerings.
“I’m a fastball guy,’’ Garza told reporters this weekend. “Six of their eight hits were on offspeed pitches, and that’s uncalled for. That’s not my style, and that’s not who I am. And that’s something that’s going to change. I haven’t had bad outings, but I don’t give up 20 hits in two games. That’s not me.’’
Taken on their own, the statements are understandable, and would be easy to let lie until his next start. But if you think about it for a second, you start to wonder: if Garza doesn’t want to pitch that way, why was he? Where was his direction coming from?
That would be new Cubs pitching coach Mark Riggins.
Now, before you jump to any conclusions, recall, whoever the pitching coach, there was going to be a transition for Garza – so this isn’t about missing Larry Rothschild (though, how much longer do the starting pitchers have to struggle before we do exactly that?). This is about a pitching coach working with his pitchers such that he helps them maximize their effectiveness in a way they feel comfortable.
Obviously Garza’s performance has not been maximized, and he doesn’t feel comfortable.
Riggins responded to Garza’s comments in a predictably bland, but direct way.
‘‘We’re going to talk and get on the same page, [but] we’ve got to find a happy medium. [Garza] has his style of pitching. Every pitcher has their style. And then the big thing in pitching is, ‘When do I get off my style? When do I go to Plan B, or do I go to Plan C?’ You’re making adjustments constantly.’’
‘‘We’re learning each other every day, but we’ve got a great relationship,’’ Riggins continued. ‘‘I feel comfortable talking to him. He feels comfortable coming to me. It’s a business. We have our say, and he has his say, and then it’s, ‘What’s best for the team here?’ It’s a team game; it’s not an individual game.’’
Sounds good, but Riggins went on to suggest that he and Quade both believe Garza will be at his most effective when he regularly mixes in his offspeed stuff. Which, in turn, suggests there might continue to be a rift between Garza and the coaches. Of course, it’s possible that Garza is on board with the plan, but was just really pissed off after a loss.
Garza’s still relatively young at 27. The Cubs acquired him believing that, not only did he have upside remaining, but that his upside was that of a top five pitcher in baseball. Debate the number if you’d like, but if he’s going to improve, he’s almost certainly going to have to be coached up. But he’s also going to have to be comfortable.
So, whatever the approach, hopefully Garza, Riggins, and Quade can all work together to get the best out of Garza because, if one thing is beyond debate at this point, he’s clearly got the stuff to be very, very good.