Two 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.