MESA, Ariz. -- Theo Epstein might not know it, but all this time, Matt Garza had been keeping score.
The Chicago Cubs ace was asked Sunday morning what the past taught him about the club’s new president of baseball operations, who previously worked for the Boston Red Sox. That would be the Red Sox who play in the same division as Garza’s former team, the Tampa Bay Rays.
“I was able to kick the crap out of him every year, year in and year out, for the last three seasons,” Garza said. “That’s what I learned.”
Garza’s actual numbers as a member of the Rays against the Red Sox were a 3.97 ERA and five victories over 17 appearances (16 starts). That came from 2008-10.
In all seriousness, Garza has tons of respect for what Epstein accomplished in Boston.
“The ballclubs he built were always good,” Garza said. “He brought up [Dustin] Pedroia through the farm, [Jacoby] Ellsbury through the farm, [Kevin] Youkilis through the farm. That’s how you keep a championship caliber ballclub is to bring them through the farm.”
It’s what he sees Epstein doing now with the Cubs, noting all the young faces in the locker room. Garza was asked if he has seen other evidence of changes made by the new management group.
“We have better cooks,” Garza said. “The food was good last year but they brought in a complete overhaul of the kitchen and are doing a whole nutritional thing, stuff like that.”
Rumors swirled all winter that in order to bolster the farm system, Garza could be traded. He finished the year with a modest 10-10 record showed his value with a career-best 3.32 ERA over 31 starts. A deal never came to fruition, though.
“Never was a doubt,” Garza said about returning to the Cubs. “A lot of it is usually hearsay. That’s usually what I go by is if I get a phone call from a different city and the only phone calls I got were from Chicago.”
Garza was asked if he enjoys playing in Chicago.
“Oh yeah, I love playing baseball; I’ll play anywhere," he said. "But the city of Chicago is one great city, I’ll tell you that. Playing in front of these fans, I had a great time last year and I plan on having even more fun this year.”
Whether or not Garza sticks around to see how Epstein’s vision plays out remains to be seen. General manager Jed Hoyer said Saturday that the club figures to have talks about a contract extension with Garza, who has a deal for this season and has one more year remaining of arbitration.
“I’m always open for that but that will stay between me and my agent and the front office. I feel that’s the way to keep things going in the right direction.”