04/26/2013 1:19 AM ET
Rizzo aims to improve average amidst homecoming
By David Furones / Special to MLB.com
Power-hitting Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo will be on a homecoming trip for the four-game series in Miami. Rizzo is from nearby Parkland and attended Stoneman Douglas High School.
"It's cool," Rizzo said. "It'll be fun to be home, get to spend some time with the family and friends, go out to places I usually eat at during the day and just get to relax at home and get to work here as well."
It's not the first time he's played in Marlins Park, but it'll be his first Major League Baseball game in the Marlins' home stadium. He played there during the World Baseball Classic, and last time he visited the Marlins for a game was with the Padres in 2011, when the Marlins played at Sun Life Stadium.
He said he didn't purchase too many tickets for friends and family, but did get a few for members of the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation, which raises money for cancer research and supports families dealing with the illness. He got members tickets and batting practice passes.
Going into Thursday's game, Rizzo had hit six home runs in the month of April, which puts him just one behind the franchise record for a left-handed hitter. Henry Rodriguez blasted seven homers for Chicago in 2000 and Hall of Famer Billy Williams did the same in 1970.
"The power numbers are nice, the RBIs are nice," Rizzo said. "I think more damage is to come. Just got to keep hitting, playing the game and let the game come to you."
Although the power numbers are there for Rizzo, he'd like to see his average improve. Rizzo's hitting .182 with an on-base percentage of .267 going into Thursday's game.
Garza scheduled to long toss Friday
After being scratched from his Wednesday rehab start with Double-A Tennessee due to what the organization called a "dead arm," Matt Garza is scheduled for long toss Friday.
"Sounded like everything is just soreness," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said before Thursday's game with the Marlins in Miami, the first of a four-game series. "He'll toss it up a little tomorrow."
The scratch was a setback in Garza's return from a strained left lat sustained on Feb. 17.
Chicago will see how long toss goes before scheduling a bullpen session for Garza and then ultimately another rehab start.
When asked if Garza would get another start within a week, Sveum said, "I would imagine."
Garza has not pitched in a Major League game since July 21, 2012, against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Sveum feels Garza could give his rotation, already a strength of the club, a major lift whenever he is able to come back. Cubs starters have posted a 2.97 ERA, which is tied for second-lowest in the National League with Atlanta, behind the Cards.
"When you get one of the better pitchers back in the National League in a rotation that's already obviously throwing the heck out of the ball and doing a great job, it enhances [the rotation] even more," he said.
Stewart trying to find his swing in Triple-A
Ian Stewart, rehabbing from a strained left quadriceps, continues to work with Triple-A Iowa.
He has played all nine innings of his past four games, according to Cubs manager Dale Sveum. He started and hit third in Iowa's lineup against Omaha Thursday, and he went 1-for-3 with a run scored before getting pinch-hit for in the seventh.
"Now it's a matter of him getting his swing together. Now he's pretty much healthy and ready to go," Sveum said.
"He's getting to that 20, 30, 40 at-bats like Spring Training, so now it's just a matter of getting him swinging the bat better."
Although Stewart has gotten his share of at-bats, they have been mostly unproductive. Stewart was hitting .083 (2-for-24) coming into Thursday. He went 0-for-4 in his last start Tuesday, but Monday was probably his best game in Triple-A, as he went 1-for-3 with a double, a run and two RBIs.
It's not automatic that Stewart will be plugged into the Cubs' lineup at third base as soon as he returns to the Majors.
"He's got to earn it. He's got to go down there and play well. He's not swinging the bat very well," Sveum said.
"[Luis] Valbuena's one of our most consistent players right now, so it's going to be very hard to move one of our more consistent players out of his spot."
Valbuena's hitting .237 with four homers and nine RBIs. He's played in 18 of the Cubs' 21 games. He started on Thursday hitting seventh and knocked the game-winning home run in the ninth.
• Thursday's matchup with the Marlins marks the first game the Cubs play against a team that finished below .500 in 2012 since April 4. Chicago went 4-13 over a 17-game stretch against winning clubs from last season.
David Furones is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.