Garza says he's healthy, anxious to prove it

An elbow injury cut short Matt Garza's 2012 season -- and the Cubs' quest to trade him before the deadline. AP Photo/Tom Gannam

MESA, Ariz. -- Chicago Cubs pitcher Matt Garza reported to camp and said Monday he is healthy and ready to try to prove the team should make a long-term commitment to him.

"My goal is to prove that I'm healthy enough and make them want me to stay," Garza said on the first official day of spring training. "That's my job. Right now there's all the questions. 'How's he going to come back? How's he going to rebound?' Those are legitimate questions."

Garza, who was expected to be dealt last season before getting injured just over a week before the non-waiver trade deadline in July, is in the final year of his contract and can be a free agent at season's end for the first time in his career.

Garza knew he was the subject of trade rumors last season and wanted to come out of the All-Star break "guns blazing," but a start against the St. Louis Cardinals on July 21 turned out to be his last one. He was first diagnosed with a cramp in the back of his right arm. That injury eventually was determined to be a stress reaction, and his season ended with a 5-7 record and 3.91 ERA.

Garza said he was throwing well and then felt something.

"I was really upset," Garza said. "I was like 'Damn, how was your last pitch, 96?'"

He still doesn't know what happened to his elbow.

"No clue, no clue," Garza said. "Doctors were just like 'We need a rest, need a rest.' It was kind of baffling what caused it or led to it. So right now, it was get everything in tip-top shape. Every little muscle, toe muscle, finger muscle. Get it in tip-top shape and ready to go. I feel great, great state of mind, great shape."

If the Cubs fall out of contention, Garza's name likely will be mentioned again as the trade deadline approaches at the end of July. For a guy coming off an injury, he isn't concerned.

"My name has popped up every year of my professional career," he said. "It's all the same to me. I'm just happy to be back pitching again."

He has been throwing 45-pitch bullpen sessions but no breaking pitches. That's not outside his norm -- he says he starts throwing curveballs in March.

Despite the dire prognostications coming off a 101-loss season, Garza is upbeat about his return and the Cubs' chances.

"You don't go into the season thinking, 'Well, we're just going to try.' No, there's no way in hell. We're going to go out there and bust our tails and try to win the Central like we do every season."

A deeper starting rotation should help, with the Cubs having seven starters for five spots.

"I think it's the best thing," Garza said. "That's the way it supposed to be done. You bring in a lot of guys to push people."

Garza, Jeff Samardzija and Edwin Jackson likely will be joined in the starting rotation by two from a group that includes Scott Baker, Scott Feldman, Travis Wood and Carlos Villanueva.

"It will be a lot of fun with seven guys," Garza said. "There will be a lot of crap talking so it'll be pretty fun."