Matt Garza has been in Mesa, Arizona working out at the Chicago Cubs’ facilities there for over two weeks now, so the flurry of Garza media coverage in the last couple days is a reflection not of Garza reporting to camp so much as it is a reflection of the media reporting to camp. And, if you’ve got to cover some Cubs, who better to talk to than the Cubs’ staff ace, a man who was the subject of rumors all Winter long?
And so it was with Garza, who offered a number of interesting quotes over the past couple days, and about whom much was written.
- Although it was the hottest topic of discussion, Garza was largely mum on the possibility of an extension. “I don’t talk about that,” Garza said. “That’s between my agent and myself, and my agent and the front office. If they want to contact us, whatever way it works, is great. My main focus is getting ready for April 5, and having fun again.” Separately, Garza said: “Right now, my agent knows where I’m at and where I want to be at, and that’s all there is to it. When stuff comes across, we’ll all know about it and we’ll talk about it. If something gets done, you guys will know. If nothing gets done, we’ll all know. You won’t hear a peep from me. My job is to get ready April 5 and get to the postseason.” But Garza later added some positive words about Chicago: “I’m always open for [an extension]. I love playing baseball. I’ll play anywhere, but the city of Chicago is one great city, I’ll tell you that. Playing in front of these fans, I had a great time last year, and I plan on having even more fun this year.’’
- GM Jed Hoyer says the Cubs will continue to dialog with Garza about an extension – Garza is a free agent after 2013 – but is willing to speak only generically about the desire to have guys “like” Matt Garza. ‘‘We’ve said many times he’s the kind of guy we need,’’ Hoyer said. ‘‘We need more Matt Garzas, not less. We need a rotation full of those guys, so if we can work something out, that’d be wonderful.’’
- Was Garza sure he’d be pitching for the Cubs in 2012? “Never was a doubt,” Garza said. “A lot of [trade rumors] is usually hearsay. That’s usually what I go by is if I get a phone call from a different city and the only phone calls I got were from Chicago.”
- On new manager Dale Sveum, Garza is already a fan, and thinks the Cubs will play well and hard for Sveum. “The team is going to reflect the manager,” Garza said. “With him out here devoting his time, away from his family, I think players will get the hint that this guy wants to win. You’ve got a guy like that, a guy who runs out here non-stop and doesn’t even talk – he’s just business, business, business, work, work, work. I’m excited.”
- Garza is as hopeful as anyone about the Cubs in 2012, and thinks the team will have an ever-dangerous “scrappy” identity: “You play hard for nine, and that will determine your identity. You can be scrappy, you can be rollovers, you can be whatever. You play hard for nine, and you’ll develop your identity. I think we’ll be a bunch of scrappers. We don’t have the big-name power guys – we have [Alfonso Soriano] in the middle of the lineup and we have [Starlin] Castro, who is going to be a great hitter and an even better shortstop this season. We have a lot of set guys, like role guys. But we’re going to be scrappy – and that’s the best way to play. If you have a big bopper and that big bopper doesn’t come through, it won’t be any good. If you’ve got a bunch of guys who hit and run, squeeze, bunt, sac, move them over, get them in, I think that’s what wins you ballgames. Guys will pay a lot of attention to detail. Little things count up here. It’s going to be a huge asset for us.”
- Asked about now-departed Carlos Zambrano, Garza had only nice things to say. Probably too nice. “I’d love to be compared to Zambrano on the field,” Garza said yesterday. “That guy, I’ll tell you what, he’s going to have one hell of a year, I kid you not. He’s going to go down to Miami and surprise a lot of people. His stuff is so electric, and it still bottoms out – every pitch does. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in the Cy Young race this year, I kid you not. He’s got that good of stuff. Just playing with Ozzie [Guillen] and being in his own comfort zone, I think he’ll have a hell of a season. I wish nothing but the best for that guy.”
- On about the only “light note” you’ll see about the still-unresolved (are you kidding me?) Theo compensation issue, Garza wasn’t surprised to hear that the Red Sox initially asked for him. “Why not?” Garza said. “He’s a great GM. He won two World Series over there. Why not go after a starter where they lacked depth in, or go after [Starlin] Castro, a guy who’s 21 and already an All-Star, or a premier prospect in [Brett] Jackson? I would’ve asked for the farm — say ‘I want this guy, this guy, this guy,’ and see what they grab.”
As usually, good stuff from Mr. Garza, who also discussed, at various times, his passion for the game and for his teammates. If you hadn’t already, be sure to observe Garza during games in which he’s not pitching. If he’s not the most excitable, most into-the-game Cub this year, then that simply means one of the new guys is even more into the Cubs than Garza.
If he sticks around for the foreseeable future, I very much look forward to continuing to root for Garza, and continuing to watch him pitch.