MESA, Ariz. _ Day 1 of spring training is in the books, if they keep books on spring-training workouts. The only Cubs casualty so far is lefty reliever John Gaub, who’s had some back spasms. Manager Dale Sveum said the ailment is not serious and that Gaub should be out there soon.
Our main “take” on the Cubs for Monday’s paper is on starting pitcher Matt Garza, who admits to being a different kind of cat. Garza said he’d like to remain a Cub but declined to talk about a possible contract extension. It was an entertaining session. Garza dished on several subjects:
--On what he learned about new Cubs president Theo Epstein: "That I was able to kick the crap out of him every year, year in and year out for the last three seasons (from his Tampa Bay days). That's what I learned. The ballclubs he built were always good. He brought Pedroia through the farm, Ellsbury through the farm, Youkilis through the farm. That's how you keep a championship-caliber ballclub, is bringing people through the farm. The Yankees learned it late, but they're able to go out and do what they do. But now, they're doing the same thing, running everything through the farm. If you look a the sleepers over there in Tampa, they've been doing it for the last 10 seasons. They might have (stunk) for eight, but they can't be stopped. I looked at their roster this year. They're unbelievable. It's all farmhands. That's what baseball is returning to, farmhands. That's what baseball started with, is farmhands. I think it's awesome. I think the direction we're going is awesome. It's time for it. I'm excited to get out there and see how it's going to take place."
--On being mentioned as possible compensation to the Red Sox for Epstein coming to the Cubs from Boston: "Why not? He's a great GM, and he won two World Series in eight, nine years. Why not? Why not go after a starter when they lack depth and go after Castro, who's 21 and a premier prospect in Jax (Brett Jackson). Why not see what you can get? I would. I would ask for the farm. I would say, 'I want this guy, this guy and this guy.' Let's see what they could grab."
--On former Cubs teammate Carlos Zambrano, with whom Garza had been compared temperamentally upon his trade to the Cubs from the Rays last year: "I'd love to be compared with Zambrano on the field. The way his numbers were and the way he threw the ball, he's one hell of a pitcher. With that guy, I tell you what, he's going to have one hell of a year. I kid you not. He's going to go out there and go down to Miami and surprise a lot of people. His stuff is so electric. It still bottoms out with every pitch. So he's going to go out, and he's going to have one hell of a year. I wouldn't be surprised if he's in the Cy Young race this year. I kid you not. He's got that good of stuff. I just think that playing with Ozzie (Guillen), getting into his own comfort zone, he's going to have one hell of a season. I wish nothing but the best for him."
There were other topics of the day. For the mound sessions, the Cubs have strung a yellow wire in front of the catchers, about at knee height.
“We have periodically (used it in Milwaukee),” Sveum said. “Sometimes it depends on the staff and the pitching coach, but it's something I really liked. (Pitching coach Chris) Bosio really likes it a lot. It's just something else to focus on besides the glove. It gives them a little guideline when the ball is down. The difference between up and down sometimes can be a ball with the stuff that you have. It's a nice guideline and guys always respond to it and like it a lot.”
The Cubs still plan to stretch out reliever Jeff Samardzija to start. It’s likely, though, he’ll end up back in the bullpen.
“We just want to look at him and see how he reacts to multiple innings and see what happens by the end of spring training and see what happens,” Sveum said. “We haven’t promised anyone anything, but the fact of the matter is to see what we got there. And he might wow us. You never know. But that's a power arm and a power body that is obviously built to start.”