02/11/2013 2:42 PM ET
Healthy Garza 'excited' to pitch, prove himself
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs pitcher Matt Garza feels he's right on schedule for Spring Training, but what happens beyond this season for the right-hander, who will be a free agent, is not something he's worried about.
"My goal is to go out there and pitch and prove I'm healthy enough and make them want me to stay," Garza said Monday. "That's my job. Right now, there's all the questions -- 'How's he going to come back? How's he going to rebound?' Those are legitimate questions.
"I haven't thrown off the mound competitively for two months," he said. "Now I'm feeling great and having great bullpens and excited to be pitching. All I know is April 1 is Game 1, and I want to be there."
Garza hasn't pitched since July 21. He was shut down after that because of problems with his right elbow, the cause of which is still baffling. Doctors told him he needed rest. Garza then spent the offseason getting everything in shape, and that, he said, includes "every little muscle, every toe muscle, every finger muscle."
"That was my goal this offseason, to make sure everything was in shape," Garza said. "I feel great, and I feel I'm in a great state of mind, great shape, and I'm glad to be back on the mound."
He was a hot topic at the Trade Deadline last July, but his injury ended interest. The Cubs did deal Ryan Dempster and Paul Maholm at that time. Could Garza be going this year?
"My name's popped up every year of my professional career," he said. "It's all the same to me. I'm just happy to be back pitching. Yeah, it's a big year. It doesn't matter -- if we win, we all win. We get to October, that's the only thing I play for is to get to October."
The rules have changed for free agents, which has left a pitcher like Kyle Lohse looking for work as camps open. He declined a qualifying offer from the Cardinals, and any team that signs him would have to give up a Draft pick.
"That's out of my hands," Garza said when asked to compare his situation to Lohse's. "I have to pitch. If I pitch well enough and good enough, that's not going to matter. If I go out there and do what I'm capable of doing and toe the rubber every five days and be as consistent as I need to be and as durable as I have my entire career, it's not going to matter. I'm just going to go out there and pitch and make people want me."
Garza, who was 5-7 with a 3.91 ERA in 18 starts last season with the Cubs, has had no problems in early workouts at Fitch Park. He's already throwing 45 pitches in bullpen sessions, working on fastball command. Cubs manager Dale Sveum mentioned Garza as one of the options for Opening Day.
"Right now, I'm just glad to be in the mix to start," Garza said. "There could've been a lot of setbacks. I'm just glad to be able to start."
Garza touts Navarro as run-stopper, mentor
MESA, Ariz. -- When asked what the Cubs needed on the roster, Matt Garza suggested a veteran backup catcher to help Welington Castillo. Garza didn't know the Cubs would get one of his favorites, Dioner Navarro.
"He provides a force back there," Garza said of his former Rays teammate. "He's known to stop a running game, and people don't run on him. ... Teams that rely on speed or the small game, a guy like Navarro behind the plate, he'll shut it down. That's a huge thing for a pitcher."
Castillo, who took over the starting job after Geovany Soto was dealt, can also tap into Navarro's experience.
"Having a guy like Navy as a backup will be a huge help, and not only for the rotation but the learning curve to get Castillo there quicker," Garza said.
"It's tough to go to a rookie, because a rookie is having a hard time feeling comfortable," Garza said. "Other pitchers could go, 'Hey, can you help Welly with this? Can you do this?' [Navarro] has been in the same predicament as Welly has. I've seen it -- Navy is a great guy to have around."
Garza said he wasn't going to request being matched up with Navarro in games.
"I don't care," he said. "I trust them both. Navy knows me well enough to know I don't care."
• The Cubs are eager to see if third baseman Ian Stewart can deliver after undergoing surgery on his left wrist last year. "We have to give him every opportunity because he's got the capabilities of being a two-way player," Sveum said of Stewart, who was limited to 55 games last season. "The way he can play defense at third base, the power he has, we have to give him every opportunity. ... It'll basically come down to production." The Cubs' other option at third is Luis Valbuena, who batted .219 in 90 games.
• Cubs pitchers and catchers will have their first workout on Tuesday. Rainy, chilly weather limited some of the outdoor activities Monday at Fitch Park but did give Sveum a chance to meet one on one with each pitcher and catcher. Pitchers Dayan Diaz and Hector Rondon were the only ones who failed to report on Monday. Both were delayed because of visa problems.
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.