'Patient' Garza ready to get at it

CHICAGO -- High energy Chicago Cubs pitcher Matt Garza said he had to learn patience this offseason.

Garza, fresh off signing a one-year contract for $10.25 million, hasn’t pitched since July due to an elbow injury and he needed to find a way to get through the boredom of rehab.

“I’m just anxious,” Garza said Friday before the start of the Cubs Convention. “I’ve kind of been locked in a cage for six months. That’s the best way to put it.”

Garza went just 5-7 last year with a 3.91 ERA, which means the incumbent ace of the staff will need to perform more and better coming off his injury. He says he’s “slightly” ahead of schedule.

“It’s a huge relief,” Garza said. “There’s no restrictions, no setbacks.”

Garza is one year away from free agency and with good friend Edwin Jackson signing a multi-year deal, Garza was asked if that was a consideration for him.

“Right now I just want to pitch,” he replied. “I’m happy that this year is settled. That’s always open but to even think about that I need to pitch.”

The intimation is that Garza knows he needs to be healthy and successful in order to get that kind of security. Right now, he’s pitching on a second consecutive one-year deal.

“It’s not the right time right now,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. “He hasn’t pitched since July. Feels great, feels healthy. I don’t think right now is the time to enter those discussions.”

The Cubs are obviously taking a cautious approach with their starting staff. They know they need bodies but more than that they want healthy ones. The time to take a risk might come when they’re on the verge of something special. Jackson got his four years based on his past durability. Garza has to prove his, just as newcomer and injured starter Scott Baker does. Garza sounds fine with that.

“(Long-term discussions are) always open but right now my focus is Feb. 9 (spring training) and being healthy and getting ready to throw that ball off the rock,” Garza said.

Garza was the subject of trade rumors last season before being sidelined with his elbow issue and that could very well happen again if the Cubs’ season goes south. But if he performs and the Cubs make strides, then moving Garza only means replacing him. That’s not an easy task.

But first he has to prove he’s healthy.

It helps that he found that patience as it was one thing Garza has lacked. He found it in his family, especially dealing with his three young daughters.

“If I wasn’t going to learn patience it was never going to happen with those three,” he joked. “I had to fight a 7-year-old to wipe make-up off, I had to fight a 3-year-old to go to sleep and I had to fight a 5-month-old to eat so it was a pretty fun offseason.”