Welcome mats are out for some Chicago baseball players returning to action and a former player and coach returning for a visit.
Cubs pitcher Matt Garza
It has been a long road back for Cubs pitcher Matt Garza after another injury. It may have been only five innings, but it was a great comeback Tuesday night, despite the Cubs losing 5-4 to the Pirates. Garza only gave up one hit in five innings pitched and no runs. Manager Dale Sveum had his right-hander on a pitch/inning count. The Cubs pitcher also contributed with a two-run scoring double. Too bad the bullpen couldn’t hold onto the 3-0 lead given to them.
Last season Garza had an elbow injury that sidelined him from July through the remainder of the season. Going into spring training, Garza last just days when he suffered a left lat (side) strain. To make room for Garza, pitcher Carlos Villanueva was moved to the bullpen for long relief and Michael Bowden was designated for re-assignment.
What is the real prospect for Garza wearing a Cubs uniform? If he can stay healthy (that is a big if) and perform, he may be on the trading block. Last year, MLB scouts were lined up preparing reports for their prospective teams to acquire him in a deal until Garza suffered the elbow injury. This year teams will be wary about his status. You can bet Cubs management fingers are crossed. Garza will give them quality starts to make a deal or the team may hang on to him for another season.
Sox starters John Danks and Gordon Beckham
Sox lefty John Danks has had a long recovery from his shoulder injury last year. Danks is hoping he can be on the mound for the White Sox as soon as Friday against the Marlins. The team needs him. With Gavin Floyd lost for this year and possibly longer, the Sox need more depth in their rotation. The likely candidate to go into the bullpen would be Hector Santiago. The other player the Sox may have back is second baseman Gordon Beckham. He suffered a broken wrist on April 11. He should be back any day after rehabbing in the minors. Beckham’s defense has been sorely missed this season.
Former Chicago stars
If there is a former Cub who has left his heart in Chicago, it's Ryan Dempster. He warmly greeted the Chicago media as he sat wearing his Boston Red Sox uniform. Dempster was happy to pick up his son from school in Chicago and brought the youngster to US Cellular field. Out in right field, Dempster and his son Brady played catch during the pre-game work outs. Dempster also instigated his son to carry out a prank. After eating a banana, he had the 7-year-old throw the peel on the dugout floor to see if someone would slip on it. Trust me. It was funny.
Dempster has a new pitching coach that has strong ties to the White Sox: Juan Nieves. The first-year Boston coach spent the previous 14 years with Chicago and the last five as the team’s bullpen coach. Nieves was instrumental working with the numerous rookies in the pen last year for Sox manager Robin Ventura. He worked with Sox pitching coach Don Cooper and was known for his astute use of video and computers for game preparations. Now Nieves handles one of the better pitching staffs in baseball that has lofty expectations for another championship ring. That is also one of the reasons Dempster signed with the Red Sox.