Matt Garza completed his second rehab start on Monday and it went very well. Garza allowed one run (after he left the game) on four hits with three strikeouts and no walks in 3 1/3 innings. Garza threw 54 pitches, 37 strikes, and was consistently in the low-mid 90s (92-94) with his fastball. Garza had very good command. Two of the four hits were either a bunt or a swinging bunt and Garza threw his breaking ball in the low 70s and a slider in the mid 80s.
Reports vary on whether Garza will make one or two more rehab starts prior to being activated from the DL. Jed Hoyer told Jim Bowden and Casey Stern on Inside Pitch (MLB Network Radio) that they do not have a timetable for Garza’s return but would like to see him build up near the 100-pitch mark. Len Kasper reported during Monday’s game that Garza could be back with the Cubs before the end of the month. Kasper mentioned the road trip through Pittsburgh and Cincinnati (May 21-May 26) as a possibility.
Kyuji Fujikawa completed his first rehab outing on Sunday with the Iowa Cubs. Fujikawa threw an inning in the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader. Fujikawa struck out two of the four batters he faced and walked a batter. Fujikawa threw 21 pitches, 11 for strikes, in the sixth inning.
The Cubs announced Monday that Fujikawa will pitch again on Tuesday, this time for Double-A Tennessee. If all goes well, the Cubs could activate Fujikawa in time for the series this weekend in Washington.
The Cubs activated Ian Stewart from the DL and optioned him to Triple-A Iowa on Friday. Stewart did not play in either game of Iowa’s doubleheader on Sunday. Reports from Des Moines on Monday morning indicated that Stewart had yet to report to the team after being optioned. What made this report strange was that Stewart had been rehabbing with Iowa.
Jed Hoyer clarified the situation on Monday afternoon.
Players that are optioned to the minors have 72 hours to report. Hoyer discussed the options with Stewart prior to the team optioning him down to Triple-A. According to a report from Carrie Muskat, Stewart decided to take the time off.
Stewart was in Des Moines for Monday’s game but did not play. Carrie Muskat reported that Stewart is expected to “join Iowa” on the next road trip in Colorado Springs.
Jed Hoyer admitted the team is disappointed that Stewart has not been able to contribute. Injuries have slowed Stewart according to Hoyer and the Cubs’ GM feels “there’s certainly talent there, left-handed power, and he’s a good defender.”
The Cubs’ GM joined Casey Stern and Jim Bowden during Inside Pitch (MLB Network Radio/Sirius-XM) on Monday afternoon. Jed Hoyer discussed a variety of topics. Here are the highlights in bullet point format …
- On the upcoming draft – Jed Hoyer would not tip his hand on which player the Cubs will take with the second pick in next month’s draft. Hoyer said they are definitely not missing any of starts made by Mark Appel or Jonathan Gray. The Cubs have watched a lot of their starts. Hoyer said there are other guys in mix but those Appel and Gray have put together fantastic seasons. The Cubs have expanded their search beyond Appel and Gray.
- Beyond wins and losses, what needs to improve with the Cubs – Hoyer said, “Record says what it says.” Hoyer explained the numbers can be spliced anyway you would like it, but the bottom line is that the Cubs have not been very good at winning games. The Cubs have been on the losing end of one-run games far too often due to several factors. They have not been able to score a lot of runs and have not been able to pull away in close games. Add in the struggles of the bullpen, and this is what happens according to Hoyer. The Cubs’ run differential is close and they are in a bunch of games but they are not winning them because of the offense and bullpen. Hoyer said, “We have to get better offensively and in the bullpen.”
- On the rotation and Edwin Jackson – On the good side four of the Cubs five starters have been really been excellent. Hoyer pointed out they are in the top five starter’s ERA in the National League and for the most part they have really pitched well. He admitted they should be winning a lot of games. As for Edwin Jackson, Hoyer said, “With Edwin it is really only one inning per start, kinda losses strike zone.” Jackson is scattering his fastball, he has to pitch better, and his career numbers say he will. Hoyer thinks Jackson is pressing a little bit due to the contract he signed in the off-season. Hoyer has no doubt Jackson will get better.
- On Carlos Villanueva’s success – Hoyer thinks pitching in the AL East helped Carlos Villanueva. The Cubs can give him an advanced scouting report and he follows it. Hoyer pointed out Villanueva can throw four pitches for strikes, changes speed well and does a good job pitching to weaknesses with advanced scout reports. Hoyer said the Cubs are very pleased with the improvements Travis Wood has made with his command this season and how well he can pitch to a scouting report.
- On Matt Garza’s status after Monday’s rehab outing – Hoyer said the early reports on Matt Garza were good. Garza feels strong. The Cubs have not decided on when he will return. After throwing more than 50 pitches on Monday, he needs to get closer to 100 pitches before he can return. The good news is that Garza is pitching and he is feeling strong. Hoyer explained that Garza is a very vocal guy and he’s been very vocal about the fact he feels great.
- On Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro, and the maturation of young players – Hoyer said that Jeff Samardzija has settled in as a top notch guy. The Cubs are really happy with the improvements Rizzo has made in the last 10 days. Starlin Castro has started slow but Hoyer feels Castro will hit more once it warms up. Castro has been working really hard with the coaching staff on his defense and works hard on a daily basis to get better. As a club, they cannot hit with RISP and are not doing the little things right now. Hoyer thinks hitting with runners in scoring position is part of the maturation process and feels hitting with RISP will improve as the season progresses.
- On what is going on with Carlos Marmol – Hoyer explained last year they took Marmol out of the closer’s role and he was very successful when they put him back last year. All but three or four times this season, Marmol has allowed the first batter he faced to reach. Hoyer said Marmol does not have the same wipe out stuff that he did three or four years ago and cannot afford to hit or walk batters, but he keeps on doing both. Hoyer pointed out he is still very tough to hit when he gets ahead in the count, he just hasn’t done it too often in the closer’s role this season. Hoyer explained it has been a struggle in the pen and they have lost a lot of games in the eighth and ninth innings they should have won.
- On trying to build Marmol’s trade value – The Cubs are not trying to build value by pitching Marmol late in games, he earned the closer job in the second half last year, lost it this year. Hoyer said, “We have to do things based on merit or you lose credibility in the clubhouse.”
The Cubs released two relievers on Monday … Kameron Loe and Cory Wade. Loe was designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster for Ryan Sweeney. The Cubs released Cory Wade, who was pitching out of the I-Cubs bullpen. Wade pitched on Monday in relief of Matt Garza then was released. Wade really struggled with Iowa after signing a minor league contract that included a non-roster invite to Spring Training in the off-season. Wade was 0-2 in 10 games with a 7.88 ERA and a 2.19 WHIP (28 hits, seven walks and 16 strikeouts in 16 innings).
The Cubs also demoted Tim Torres from Triple-A Iowa to Double-A Tennessee on Monday.
News and Notes
Anthony Rizzo has worked his way up the leader boards in the National League. Rizzo in tied for third in home runs (9), tied for fourth in RBI (25), tied for seventh in doubles (9) and is 16th in the league in OPS (.905).
Jed Hoyer would not say which one of the starting pitchers would be the odd man out once Matt Garza is able to return to the rotation.
Ken Rosenthal thinks Chase Headley would be perfect for the Cubs.
According to Ken Rosenthal, look for the Cubs to remain aggressive on the waiver wire.