The first formal step in Matt Garza’s return to the mound happened today in Mississippi, as Garza made his first rehab start for the Tennessee Smokies, the Cubs’ AA affiliate. He pitched into the third inning before reaching his pitch limit (45, but he finished the final batter he faced at 42 pitches, so that ended his day). He threw 27 strikes out of 42 pitches, and allowed three baserunners, all in the second inning.
Garza’s first inning was a quick seven pitches, but he ran into some trouble in the second, walking the first two batters of the inning. After a double play grounder, Garza allowed a single (in a three-ball count), which scored a run.
His final line was 2.2 innings, 1 hit, 2 BB, 1 ER, and 0 K.
Remember: the results really don’t matter here. This is Garza’s Spring Training, and he’s coming back from dual injuries, to boot. That means he’s working on getting his arm into shape, he’s working on location, he’s working on pitches – and mostly, he’s just trying to throw a bit to batters to see how he feels tomorrow. What matters is that the velocity looks normal for a first start, and it did. Garza worked in the high-80s, which is just fine for his first time out (and at least one reputable source suggests the gun in Mississippi is a few MPH slow).
Assuming Garza does feel well, he’ll continue starting on a normal schedule – every five days – until he’s made three or four rehab starts and the Cubs feel he’s ready to go at the big league level. That could come as soon as mid-to-late-May.
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