God’s Wrath Watch: Matt Garza Scratched from Rehab Start with “Dead Arm”

gods-wrathMatt Garza’s first rehab start was bumped by the rain – we were told – and now his second rehab start has been bumped by his arm.

Garza, who is recovering from a Spring lat strain, as well as a stress reaction in his elbow suffered last July, was scheduled to start today for the AA Tennessee Smokies, but that start has been scratched. The righty is suffering from generalized arm soreness, according to GM Jed Hoyer.

“We’re certainly hopeful it’s a dead arm [thing],” Hoyer said, per Cubs.com, noting the issue is common early in the year. “It’s a muscle and forearm and biceps, kind of a dead arm period thing. We’re hopeful he takes a couple days, throws a bullpen and gets back out there.”

“Dead arm” is a phenomenon encountered by most pitchers at one point or another where their arm simply feels like it is worn down. On its own and in terms of health, “dead arm” is not particularly serious. But, thanks to the associated weakness, it can destroy a pitcher’s effectiveness for a period of time (usually brief).

By describing Garza’s setback as a mere “dead arm” thing, Hoyer was obviously putting the most positive spin on the issue as possible. Indeed, he sounded as positive as one can about something like this.

“It’s all muscular, nothing structural,” Hoyer said. “We’ll give him a couple days, throw a bullpen and get him right back on schedule.”

With a valuable trade asset hanging in the balance, I suppose you wouldn’t expect Hoyer to say anything different, even if he thought there was only a 25% chance things work out that well and that quickly. That he said the Cubs are “hopeful” it’s just dead arm makes me nervous.

A general point on “dead arm”: Hoyer isn’t lying when he says that a number of pitchers deal with it early in the year. Dead arm is relatively common – in the universe of arm troubles, anyway – among pitchers who are getting their arm back into shape. That part is not just spin.

That said, we aren’t talking about just any pitcher here. We’re talking about a guy who suffered what was thought to be a minor elbow injury last July, which, either in reality or in the narrative, got worse and worse over the ensuing weeks. He then strained his lat in his first session throwing to batters since that July injury. He suffered a setback thereafter, and his two week injury became a two month injury.

In that context, a scratched start due to “dead arm” is 100% more concerning than it would be for virtually any other pitcher. I’m not sounding the panic alarm or anything, but unfortunately we’ve been given very little reason to be optimistic over the past year. Yes, dead arm happens, and guys can come back from it within a very short period of time. Indeed, many pitchers deal with it during the season and you never hear about it, because they pitch through it.

But, when it comes to Garza, and the very short time line the Cubs have for maximizing his value, any kind of setback is unnerving. Having to “hope” that it’s just “dead arm” is frustrating.

At best, presuming Garza does throw a bullpen in a few days, and needs only that one bullpen before resuming his rehab stint, it seems that we’ll still see his return pushed from mid-May to late-May.

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Brett Taylor is the Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and on LinkedIn here. Brett is also the founder of Bleacher Nation, which opened up shop in 2008 as an independent blog about the Chicago Cubs. Later growing to incorporate coverage of other Chicago sports, Bleacher Nation is now one of the largest regional sports blogs on the web.

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