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Cubs Thu May 23 2013

Garza's Return Marred By Cubs' Bullpen Issues

Cubs_200.pngIt had been 10 months to the day since Matt Garza stepped onto the mound in a major league game. After being plagued with multiple injuries during that time, his return had been long awaited by not only the Cubs organization and its fans, but other teams around the league in need of an impact arm for a playoff race.

Twinty-four hours later, the talk about his performance, which was dynamite, has been overshadowed by the terrible bullpen backing him up, along with a lack of communication that is infuriating to see in a professional organization.

The line: 5IP, 1H, 3BB, 5K in just 82 pitches was exactly what everyone was hoping to see. He was sharp with all four of his pitches and stayed out of any potential trouble early knowing he was on a short pitch count. He even drove in a pair of runs of his own en route to leaving with a 3-0 lead.

Before the game, the Cubs were forced to designate Michael Bowden for assignment to make room for Garza. Carlos Villanueva was moving to the bullpen, so somebody had to go. Carlos Marmol is paid too much, Kevin Gregg has been too good, James Russell is the only lefty, Hector Rondon was a Rule 5 draftee (so he can't be sent down to the minors without offering him back to his original team first), and Kyuji Fujikawa has been great outside of two appearances.

That left Shawn Camp and Michael Bowden as the only two players the team would consider parting ways with. Camp has had a pretty terrible season (7.31 ERA coming in) following his 80-appearance campaign in 2012 that left many thinking he was overused, and was on pace to match that number thus far in 2013 after signing a $1.35 deal in the offseason. Compare that to Bowden's 3.78 ERA in 16-plus innings along with being 11 years younger, and it seemed like the decision was clear.

Instead, Bowden was designated for assignment before the game (he was out of minor league options), and Camp was brought in to get out of the jam that Rondon and Russell had created on the bases following Garza's departure. The results were disastrous. After recording an out to keep the score at 3-1, Camp gave up a grand slam, double, single and walk before finally getting out of the inning with the Cubs trailing 5-3.

If the story ended there, the loss would've been forgotten, and fans would start to write up fake trade proposals for Garza. Instead, the Cubs announced yesterday that Camp would go on the disabled list with a bad big toe he's been battling for a month but hadn't told anyone about. It's a selfish, boneheaded move by Camp, but the team didn't know about it until after his blowout on Tuesday, and couldn't put him on the disabled list to save Bowden's job for at least the next two weeks.

Except -- the Cubs did know about his toe problem before. According to Dale Sveum, the toe has been bothering him for a month, but he didn't tell the team about it until Sunday. He was then asked why the Cubs didn't just put Camp on the DL to make room for Garza on Tuesday, and he responded by saying they didn't know the seriousness of the injury at that point.

Why wasn't Camp the one cut anyway because of his previous struggles? It probably has something to do with the contract he signed, and the Cubs not wanting to have another sunk cost from the offseason to go along with Ian Stewart, whose contract became guaranteed when he was placed on the disabled list after spring training rather than being cut.

The handling of the Camp situation by the organization was poor, and his own lack of disclosure is amateur at best, and firing-worthy if he were making the major league minimum and pitching the way he has. Instead, the Cubs will more than likely lose a young pitcher who was starting to figure things out, and are left with an injured, struggling hurler that wasn't forthcoming with the seriousness of his pain.

Garza's first start was everything you could ask for. It's too bad he was let down by a number of people around him.

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