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6/05/2007 08:28:00 AM

AL Central: Garza's dilemma

By Joe Lemire

Matt Garza should be mad.

The Twins' top pitching prospect, a first-round pick in 2005 and USA Today's Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2006, rose from Single-A ball to the majors all in one season. He was dominant in the minors -- a combined 14-4 with 154 strikeouts and a 1.99 ERA in 135 2/3 innings -- and admittedly less so in the majors (3-6, 5.76), but this spring he's been wasting away in Triple-A while Minnesota gave seven starts to Sidney Ponson, stuck with Ramon Ortiz in the rotation a few weeks too long, and still trot Carlos Silva out to the mound every fifth day.

It's no wonder Garza voiced his frustration last week. The big league club is in third place, a scant one game over .500 and six games back in the division. And there he was, holed up in Rochester, N.Y.

What's the delay, Minnesota? At least the Twins called up another promising prospect in '05 second-round pick Kevin Slowey to take Ortiz's spot in the rotation, if it was a bit curious that they bypassed Garza for a pitcher who hadn't even had a cup of coffee in the majors (though Slowey is leading the International League in ERA at 1.54). I guess that's the price of insubordination.

Or maybe it's simply another a key component of the Twins' long-ranging plans. Johan Santana was brought along his slowly when he was in his early 20s. Though he was pitching for the parent club, he was only a part-time starter and most-of-the-time reliever. And Francisco Liriano, at the age of 24, is out all season with Tommy John surgery. Patience, they say, is a virtue and in the case of general manager Terry Ryan, it's also a discipline he seems to have mastered.

Of course, no matter why Garza isn't on the 25-man roster, what was troubling about his recent comments -- and where he stepped a little over the line -- was his criticism of the advice he's received from the Twins. Garza hasn't exhibited the same brilliance he did in the minors last year, going 3-5 with a 3.19 ERA in 11 starts so far in 2007, and he made the mistake of blaming the organization for urging him to throw too many offspeed pitches.

The right-handed power pitcher even went so far as to say, "I'm not sleeping well at night because I'm trying to be something I'm not." He pointed to his strong spring stats (1.50 ERA in 12 innings) as proof he can be successful against major-league competition, citing a fatigued arm for his mediocrity with the Twins last September, and asked that he be allowed to pitch the way the fireballer has always pitched: less deception, more speed.

Twins fans should be heartened that their blue chipper is champing at the bit. After Garza's public criticism, and with the Twins recently having won eight of nine games, I understand their reluctance in promoting him, but they can't wait too long before allowing him to supplant either Silva or Scott Baker in the rotation for the stretch run.

Garza is the future ace of the Twins, and his competitive spirit is commendable. It would help his development to log some innings now, several slots behind über-ace Santana, before his imminent departure in free agency after 2008. The time for Garza is soon.

  • Speaking of prospects wallowing in the minors, Chicago White Sox minor league third baseman Josh Fields is hitting .319 with seven homers since May 1. Joe Crede, meanwhile, is batting .216 in 47 games with the ChiSox.

  • Not surprisingly, the Tigers released ineffective Jose Mesa. Omar Vizquel, consider yourself warned if Mesa returns to the National League.

  • Has anyone else noticed that Santana has given up 12 home runs, tied for third most in the majors? He's been the anti-Josh Beckett this year.

  • What's new with the Indians? Who cares? Cleveland is consumed by LeBron and the Cavaliers. (For those actually wondering, the Indians went 6-4 in a brutal 10-game stretch against the Tigers and Red Sox.

  • In Cleveland's 12-11 win over Detroit Friday night, Todd Jones's Win Probability Added was -1.014, which is somehow more than 100 percent. I guess that's what happens when you allow five runs in the bottom of the ninth. Another good stat, courtesy of Let's Go Tribe: the Indians had a 0.8 percent chance of winning when Casey Blake came to the plate with one out in the ninth. Cue Jim Carrey in Dumb and Dumber, "So you're saying I've got a chance!"

  • Ever wonder what ESPN's Rob Neyer would say to a hardcore Royals fan like Rany Jazayerli? Me neither, but here it is anyway.
  • Labels:

    posted by SI.com | View comments |  


    Posted: June 5, 2007 12:14 PM   by Anonymous
    How long before this Lemire kid get his own baseball column?
    Posted: June 5, 2007 12:46 PM   by Anonymous
    While Garza is an incredibly promising prospect, the Twins organization is correct with the way in which he is being groomed. Garza has primarily relied upon his fastball to blow by the minor league ranks but he won't get away with that in the majors. He's incredibly immature and arrogant to think he can achieve the same success in the bigs by relying so heavily on his fastball. Terry Ryan is trying to break his ego and more fully develop his arsenal of pitches.
    Posted: June 5, 2007 1:43 PM   by Anonymous
    With a little more research, you'd know that the Twins' Triple-A team is in Rochester, MN, and not NY. Also, with Garza's subpar performance this year, coupled with his troubles after being called up last year, the Twins obviously felt more time in the minors was needed to fine tune his talents. As far as Garza's qualms about wanting to throw more heat, most major leaguers can hit a fastball. It takes a few good offspeed pitches (and knowing when to throw them) that sets elite pitchers apart from the rest. Santana didn't become truly dominant until he learned to properly utilize his circle change.
    Posted: June 5, 2007 2:21 PM   by Anonymous
    Garza's comments remind me all too much of Kyle Lohse's attitude, and we all know how far that got him. He does have great stuff, but the Twins aren't stupid: they know he'll get shelled if he comes up to the bigs pumping only heaters.

    Here's to hoping Garza isn't another million dollar arm/ten cent brain wonder.
    Posted: June 5, 2007 2:33 PM   by Anonymous
    carlos silva this season k/bb, 2-1, record 3-6 3.86 era, this is bad because?
    Posted: June 5, 2007 4:13 PM   by Anonymous
    Sometimes I wish columnists would do a little research before writing an article. First I would like to say I agree with the fact that Ponson and Oritz were not great decisions...but to say you would put Garza up before Silva(yes bad year last year, but 3.86 ERA as of this year, maybe you should look at something more than record)...As for Garza we all saw why he didn't make the team out of spring training as his command of his pitches was not there. I don't buy the tired arm bull, as he was hitting 95 on a regular basis while he was up last year his problem is that he had nothing but a fastball and a slider he couldn't control. The twins are a game above in the toughest division in baseball...not to bad if you ask me.
    Posted: June 5, 2007 5:24 PM   by William, St. Paul
    Garza does not deserve to be in the Twins rotation. His ERA is 3.19 compared to Slowey's 1.54. He should shut his mouth and concentrate on letting his arm do the talking. If he's good enough he'll be called up!
    Posted: June 6, 2007 10:35 PM   by Anonymous
    Anonymous (1:43) "With a little more research, you'd know that the Twins' Triple-A team is in Rochester, MN, and not NY."

    Uh, no. You're wrong. The Rochester Red Wings were with Baltimore for many years until they switched to the Twins. Rochester, MN doesn't have a pro baseball team at any level. Guess sportswriting's not for you. Leave it to the sportswriters, I suppose.
    Posted: June 7, 2007 8:55 AM   by Anonymous
    Hey Annonymous. There is no affiliated minor league baseball team in Rochester, MN. The Twins AAA farm club is the Rochester (NY) Red Wings. I guess maybe YOU should do a little research.
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