DeJesus: Garza key to Cubs' success

The Cubs are hoping Matt Garza's injury won't last longer than the week he will miss. AP Photo/Morry Gash

MESA, Ariz. -- Chicago Cubs center fielder David DeJesus believes a healthy Matt Garza is vital to the team having a successful season in 2013.

"He is the key to our team," DeJesus said Wednesday of the Cubs' top starter. "Having a healthy Matt back makes our starting five a lot tougher. He's a No. 1-type of pitcher. Happy this (latest injury) happened now rather than closer to Opening Day. It also gives him more time for his elbow. ... It's a lat strain, those things heal up."

Garza said he's "feeling better" Wednesday morning after straining the left side of his body while throwing batting practice on Sunday. He's out at least a week after missing most of the second half of last season with an elbow problem.

It hasn't waned any enthusiasm in camp especially by DeJesus, who is optimistic about the season and wants to do more to help his team.

"I want to be a leader on the team," he said. "I want to be a guy that they can rely on. We have some young guys on this team. Us veterans have to be leaders and show them this is the way to play."

DeJesus wants to at least repeat his .350 on-base percentage of a year ago but wouldn't mind his other numbers taking a leap as well. He hit nine home runs while driving in 50 runs, to go along with a .263 batting average and seven stolen bases in eight attempts.

"I want to get better at every part of my game," DeJesus said. "I want to be a better, complete player."

If his on-base percentage goes up it can only mean good things for the Cubs offense. With Anthony Rizzo now established, along with Starlin Castro and Alfonso Soriano, all in the middle of the lineup, getting on base ahead of them is important.

DeJesus believes a full season of Rizzo will be key to the Cubs lineup.

"This is the first time he knows he's going to make the team," DeJesus said. "It's kind of different knowing you're going to make it as to trying to make it. His main goal is to be ready for April 1. That's the guy I've taken under my wing. I'm teaching him the work ethic and preparation type of thing."

Rizzo hit 15 home runs and drove in 48 runs in half a season last year. DeJesus knows enthusiasm in spring training is the norm but like the fan base he has faith in the front office.

"It's really exciting what (president) Theo (Epstein) is doing with the team," DeJesus said. "It's definitely something to look out for. We have veteran guys on this team that know the game, that have played the game. We think we can win more."