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Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Garza's back -- but for how long?

By Jesse Rogers

PITTSBURGH – Let the debate begin.

Matt Garza
Matt Garza threw five scoreless innings in his season debut on Tuesday.
Trade him. No, sign him.

If Chicago Cubs pitcher Matt Garza continues to pitch as he did on Tuesday night in his first outing in 10 months, then the Cubs will have a good, but tough decision on their hands. Garza was lights out for five innings in the Cubs' 5-4 defeat to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

“Garza was really, really good,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said after his one-hit, shutout performance.

The only issue was taking him out of the game. Garza threw 82 pitches and wanted to stay in despite it being his first game back after a long layoff caused by an elbow problem last season and a lat strain this spring. The Cubs want to take it slow with him.

“You think they’re going to take me out without a fight?” Garza joked. “The competitive part of me doesn’t want to leave what I started.”

Does that go for leaving the Cubs as well? Garza will be a free agent at the end of this season, and while he was close to being dealt last July it’s unknown if the Cubs will try again or actually try to bring him back.

“That’s all out of my hands,” Sveum said before the game. “It all comes down to where we’re at in our organization and what we feel is the right thing to do at the right time.”

It might simply come down to the price being right for the Cubs. They aren’t as urgent as Garza might be to lock down a long-term, multi-million dollar deal.

It’s irrelevant now as Garza has to first prove himself on the mound again. Tuesday was a good start.

“It’s nice to have that kind of caliber starter back in your rotation,” Sveum said.

In some ways Garza was even better Tuesday than before his injuries. According to ESPN Stats and Information, Garza recorded 13 misses on 31 swings Tuesday night. That’s his highest miss percentage in a start since at least 2009. His slider was particularly effective. He threw it 26 times and the Pirates swung at exactly half of them, missing nine of 13 pitches. But his fastball is still his bread and butter. Pirate hitters were 0-for-10 on at-bats that ended with his two- or four-seamer. His fastball velocity was around 93.4 mph, almost exactly the same as pre-injury. And it was also the last thing he was interested in.

“That’s not a big deal to me,” Garza said. “As long as I get outs, it works. I watched Jamie Moyer forever get outs at 81 mph. Velocity is nothing. I felt great. It sucks I couldn’t keep going.”

Finally, according to Inside Edge scouting services Garza gave up one “well-hit” ball, to Andrew McCutchen in the first inning. He was that good. So when the Cubs get around to deciding what to do with Garza, maybe they should listen to their manager.

“You can never have enough quality starting pitching so you always want an arm like Garza’s in your starting rotation,” Sveum said.

Trade him. Sign him. Let the debate begin.