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matt garza cubsTwo starts ago, Matt Garza struggled badly against the Reds, and later suggested it could partially be because he wasn’t on the same page with catcher Welington Castillo. Without blaming Castillo, Garza said that, as a veteran, he needs to help guide Castillo through certain situations.

Garza’s next start, against the Mets, came with Dioner Navarro behind the plate. Garza was dominant, and indicated that he’d like to have Navarro behind the plate for his future starts. So, was he right? Was Navarro instrumental in Garza’s success against the Mets? Should he just have Navarro behind the plate for all of his starts?

“[Garza succeeded because he had] command of his fastball,” Sveum said, per Cubs.com. “When you have command of your fastball down and away, in any kind of format in the big leagues, you’re going to have success.”

Sveum also pointed out how Castillo has been catching the other pitchers well – Feldman, Wood, and Samardzija have all had great starts with Castillo behind the plate – and probably didn’t want to see his starting catcher hung out to dry. I doubt Garza meant any of this as a shot at Castillo, but it’s kind of a delicate situation.

For now, it doesn’t sound like Sveum is inclined to give Garza a guaranteed personal catcher in Navarro, even if we see him catching more of Garza’s starts from here on out.

What immediately jumps out at me about all of this is how bad it could look to other teams if they believe that Garza is saying that he can’t pitch effectively unless a particular catcher is behind the plate. I doubt that’s what Garza intends to say, but it’s all about perception. If the Cubs want to shop Garza over the next month and a half, I’d reckon they’re not going to want to do it against the backdrop of Garza pitching well with Navarro behind the plate and poorly with Castillo behind the plate, and Garza saying that the catcher is the reason for that duality. Odds are, if Garza’s traded, it won’t be in a tandem deal with Navarro – so Garza’s going to have to pitch well no matter who is behind the plate.

I’m not sure that Sveum’s thinking that way when he says Garza just needs to command his stuff and he can pitch well no matter who is behind the plate – it sounds like the kind of thing a manager says, regardless – but it’s definitely the right move from an organizational perspective.

  • Cubbie Blues

    I didn’t read it as any catcher, but a young inexperienced one. Garza is both having to deal with the plan and strategy as well as teach a young catcher how to do the same instead of only focusing on executing the game plan.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      That was kind of an awkward sentence, which I’ve now restructured a bit. The point was, the Cubs are going to want the world to know that Garza can pitch well no matter who is behind the plate.

      • Cubbie Blues

        Fair enough, but where did the “I reckon” come from. You’re not that close to WV or KY are you?

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          No. But I like to reckon.

          • Jay

            I don’t recall anyone worrying about Greg Maddux’s effectiveness when he basically demanded they sit Javy Lopez whenever he pitched. Dioner’s gotta get a start once a week anyhow, may as well do it when Garza pitches.

            • Cubbie Blues

              And nobody is mistaking Garza for Maddux either.

              • mudge

                If he pitches better with Navarro, catch Navarro. But here’s Garza taking it public when this is a confidential conversation in the manager’s office. Bush.

          • Internet Random

            I reckon more before 9 a.m. than most people do all day.

          • Alex

            Hahah great

  • Chad

    I think Castillo has done a really good job with all the other pitchers as Brett and Sveum stated. Is it perhaps more that Garza isn’t comfortable with Castillo because of his little time working with him in the spring/rest of the season? Perhaps Garza just doesn’t trust Castillo like he would Navarro because he has known Navarro longer. I don’t know what it is, but it seems like Castillo is doing well and Garza just needs to get over it.

  • DarthHater

    Garza doesn’t want to be traded, so he is trying to scare off other teams. FO should suspend him for 10 games. :-P

    • scorecardpaul

      Diehard?

  • RoughRiider

    Garza has been around long enough that it should be. Garza throws the ball and catcher x catches the ball. As long as catcher x can catch the ball and throw it back there should be no problem of being on “the same page”. It sounded as if Garza was putting the blame on himself but really wanting us to read between the lines and realize that it was Castillo that caused him to have a bad start against the Reds, which is a load. The onus was on Garza not Castillo.

  • ABK

    I noticed that Navarro was catching him this past weekend, as well. I’m not so sure if the success is due to Navarro, or the fact that he was pitching to the Mets, a team with the lowest team batting average in the MLB. The Reds, as we’ve painfully seen many times over this season, are an offensively potent team (15th best batting averange in the MLB, not the best, but much better than the Mets). It could be a little bit of both. At the end of the day, Garza has really good stuff and, I think, was probably just off his start against the Reds.

  • Rich H

    The personal catcher debate is only coming up because of who the catcher is. When Castillo was coming up fans were calling for him 2 years before he got to the big leagues. The reason was because he was having issues communicating with the pitchers and calling games. I remember back in 2011 when he was in spring training talking about language classes and different things. Not because he had a language issue but because he wanted to learn the nuances and differences in multiple languages. Saying it would help him communicate in general. So with his history does having an issue controlling and maintaining a good relationship with any pitcher really surprise anyone?

  • Brian

    It sounds like one, if not both, were not on the same page as game planned to begin with. Garza wanting to throw something different then what Castillo was calling for.

  • luke

    What no one is mentioning is the bad start against the Reds one of best teams in baseball great start against the Mets worst team B.A. in baseball I believe this could have something to with drastic difference between starts.

  • X The Cubs Fan

    Speaking of catchers, does anyone think the Cubs would be interested in Evan Gattis? With Brian McCann coming off the Dl he has no where to play.

    • TonyP

      The Braves aren’t trading Gattis…. McCann is a FA after the year I believe….

  • Aaron

    Sveum is a decent manager and he’s now showing signs of wearing down due to the pressure of losing, especially when statistically the team should be much better than their record. Soriano too is showing his frustration which is unusual for him. It’s going to get worse before it gets better.

    This is not a good Cubs team. We all knew that in spite of what the team’s ownership and top management were saying. Their losses, which are now accumulating quickly over a 162 game schedule, have been especially tough to watch. They don’t know know how to win games. Their batting average with RISP as well as losing many games after leading through the 5th inning shows that.

    There isn’t a star player on the team that thrives under pressure and performs better. A player or two that can carry a team. I believe we have some players in the minors that have that attitude and ability but they are a few seasons away. We really need to focus on the future and get as many quality prospects through trades before the approaching deadline and by being aggressive yet smart in our international signings.

    Hope for 2015 and beyond!

  • FastBall

    As a former pitcher I can tell you that I liked throwing to some catchers much more than others. Some call a better game, some receive the ball much better than others. I think a lot has to do with eye of the pitcher. Some catchers just don’t set up conducive to a pitchers eye. It sounds strange but there is something to it. It’s also mental in that some catchers just relax a pitcher better than others. Confidence is big and it is not the same with every guy who gets behind the plate for some reason.

    • http://www.dccoffeeproducts.com John

      I agree fastball- I to pitched and some guys you felt better behind the plate- some guys you handcuffed- blocked the umpire’s view- got you squeezed etc. Other guys back there allowed you to relax and pitch. I agree at times Castillo looks handcuffed when trying to receive the pitch.

    • gocatsgo2003

      While potentially opening myself up to get told in a big way, pitcher at what level? One would hope that a major league starting pitcher would be able to execute his pitches at least reasonably well regardless of the catcher behind the dish, even if it took a few extra trips to the mound to ensure they were on the same page of the game plan.

  • Stevie B

    What fastball said. I pitched my whole youth, and it was odd how some days I connected with a certain catcher, and I could literally put the ball wherever I wanted, with every pitch I had in my arsenal.

  • No Longer JR

    What concerns me about this storyline is why it is being played out in public – and that gives me concern about Sveum. If my memory is correct, in one of his last few years with the Cubs Maddux was caught by the backup catcher or, if you want to make him sound like a jerkish prima donna, you could say he had his own personal catcher. The commentators as I recall took it in stride – he was a veteran and preferred that catcher so since the backup played once a week anyway the manager just had him catch Maddux. This does not seem like a big deal to me. This is not Soriano demanding to bat leadoff. This seems like a routine accommodation that you give your veteran pitcher if they come to you and ask for it. Who cares why it makes him more comfortable? Who cares if it *really* makes a difference. If it matters to him in his mind, and he’s otherwise a good teammate (check), hard worker (check) and not a whiner (check), just do it already. Heck, I’d take his critique of Castillo and use it to help Castillo better himself. It’s Castillo who needs to figure out how to accommodate his pitchers, especially veteran pitchers, not vice versa. (Disclaimer: I was a catcher but just through college, and just in DIII, and ages and ages ago).

    Add to that the fact that the front office has not decided yet whether to trade him or sign him long term (if, say, they can’t trade him on favorable terms or decide he’ll be part of the future core), why give the guy a hard time? I have to think that it was Sveum not accommodating his private request that led to the publicizing of this. To me, a very odd battle for Sveum to have picked and calls into question his judgment and handling of players. Having said all that, I/we obviously are not privy to all the facts. But still.

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