GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- It may be Spring Training, but that didn't stop Cubs pitcher Matt Garza from diving after a ball onto the hard dirt in front of the Reds' dugout on Tuesday.
Garza was backing up on a play in the second inning. He's got the cuts on his arm to show for his effort.
"That was awesome," Garza said. "I didn't know where I was along the dugout. I thought I was near the stairs. I turned and said, '[Darn], I should've let that thing hit the fence.' The dirt was hard and I got a little cut up. I'd rather do [that] than risk a chance at giving up a couple extra runs."
There was a runner on base at the time but, still, it's a Cactus League game. If he did give up a run, it doesn't count after April 5.
"It's a game," Garza said. "It's like saying, 'Don't compete, don't go out there and try.' It's a game you don't want to lose. You want to work on stuff, but at the same time, it's your game."
The right-hander was pulled after giving up two runs on seven hits over four-plus innings, although he left reluctantly. Cubs manager Dale Sveum came to get Garza in the fifth with two on and nobody out.
"He came out and surprised me," Garza said. "I said, 'What are you doing out here? It's the fifth.' He said, 'You have 80 pitches.' I said, 'I don't care.' He said, 'I do. I've still got to keep my job for the next copule years.'
"I did not know I had that many pitches," Garza said. "In the third inning, I told [Alfonso Soriano], I said, 'Hey, is it the eighth yet? I'm tired. I feel like I've thrown eight innings.' It was 65 pitches into the fourth. I think next time out, I'll try to spread them around a little more."
He'll get one more start in Arizona before making his season debut on April 7 at Wrigley Field against the Nationals.
"I'm ready to go," Garza said. "I've got one more and it's time to fly home. I'm looking forward to that one."
Sveum, staff to meet after Wednesday's game
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Cubs still have 40 players in camp, but manager Dale Sveum and the coaching staff will meet after Wednesday's game to finalize the roster.
"We'll get everything 95-percent finished," Sveum said on Tuesday.
The Cubs need to pick their backup catcher between Steve Clevenger and Welington Castillo, settle on the bench, and complete the bullpen. However, the decision on the final relievers may not be announced until Thursday. Carlos Marmol and Kerry Wood are set, and James Russell appears to be the only left-hander in the mix. The rest are still to be determined.
"[I want to] let people know Thursday, and that leaves five days to get to play and do things the way we're going to to them during the season," Sveum said.
Does that mean he'll be closer to finalizing his lineup?
"It'll probably be longer than that," said Sveum, still considering his options.
Byrd not worried about close pitches
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- It would be understandable if Marlon Byrd was a little hesitant after getting hit in the face by a pitch last May. The Cubs center fielder said he's over it.
"It doesn't bother me," Byrd said on Monday. "When I first came in and started seeing seeing pitches, I thought about it -- but that was it. After getting kicks thrown at your head in the offseason, and you're taking that pounding and you know you're fine, it didn't bother me."
Byrd got his "kicks" this offseason when he added a martial arts workout called Muay Thai (pronounced "moy tie"). The intense sessions include kicks to the head, but he was wearing a padded helmet. When he was hit by the pitch from Boston's Alfredo Aceves, he suffered multiple facial fractures.
Byrd did come back after the injury last season, and hit .253 in the second half. He didn't remember any pitches close to his face.
"Once I get that first ball at my head and I get that out of the way, we'll see how I react," Byrd said.
He isn't looking forward to that. Byrd just recognizes pitchers don't have pinpoint control on every pitch.
"What people don't understand, is their arms don't feel great every day," Byrd said. "Sometimes they try to throw it in a spot and it gets away."
Timely hitting will be key to good start
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Dale Sveum is checking the weather for next week. The Cubs open the regular season in Chicago on April 5, and the early forecast calls for temperatures in the upper 50s. What's more important is whether the Cubs get off to a good start.
"We have a nice starting staff," the Cubs manager said on Tuesday. "If we get timely hitting and our two corner guys live up to their capabilities, no less or no more, you have a chance to score runs. The timely hitting is the biggest thing."
The Cubs aren't being picked by many as a preseason favorite to win the National League Central.
"Predictions and odds are what they are," Sveum said. "The bottom line is, when you have starting pitching like we do, you can do a lot of things if other people live up to half of their expectations during the season -- and you catch the ball and you're getting timely hitting. The key to our offense is timely hitting, as much as anything."
The Cubs went 12-14 last April and, like most teams, need a good start.
"I think it is for anybody, just for confidence reasons," Sveum said.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter@CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.