ARLINGTON, Texas (AP)—- Matt Garza is set to start pitching for a playoff contender again, this time with a team that has long coveted him.
Garza will make his Texas Rangers debut Wednesday night against the visiting New York Yankees.
“He’s excited, big smile on his face. I think I sat here with just as big a smile as he did,” manager Ron Washington said. “He’s ready to go, man. I wouldn’t expect anything less.”
The Rangers acquired Garza (6-1, 3.17 ERA) on Monday from the Chicago Cubs. Texas immediately traded three players, including major league pitcher Justin Grimm and top prospect third baseman Mike Olt, in a deal with one or two players to be named later.
The right-hander was 5-0 with a 1.24 ERA in his last six starts for the Cubs. Scratched from his scheduled start Monday night at Arizona, he last pitched July 13 against St. Louis at Wrigley Field.
“He’s a power pitcher. He will upgrade any rotation in the big leagues,” said Rangers backup catcher Geovany Soto, his former teammate in Chicago. “It’s great to have him here.
“He’s happy that everything’s done, he knows where he’s at now, and he’s going to be here for 2013 and hopefully go into October. He’s going to prepare, he’s going to give you 100 percent. Guaranteed.”
Derek Holland was initially scheduled to pitch Wednesday against his idol, Andy Pettitte (7-7, 4.47). He will instead pitch the four-game series finale Thursday, a day game when the temperature is expected to be 100 degrees or more.
Washington said the Rangers (55-45) didn’t want Garza to sit much longer after not pitching Monday.
“Plus, we want to get him a chance to feel what this heat is like, rather than his first game out he’s going in a day game,” Washington said. “Derek has done it before, so we send Derek out there.”
Garza, who pitched in the 2008 World Series for Tampa Bay and in the 2010 AL division series for the Rays against Texas, can become a free agent after this season. He made 11 starts for the Cubs this year after missing the first seven weeks with a strained left lat muscle.
Tampa Bay traded Garza to Chicago instead of Texas after the 2010 season. The Rangers were also interested in Garza last summer before he missed the last two months with a stress reaction in his elbow.
The last time Garza faced the Yankees (53-47) was in September 2010, and he has a 1-4 record with a 4.48 ERA in 12 games - 11 starts - against them.
“It’s been a few years, but we’ve seen a lot of him, and he’s a pitcher that’s had success pretty much anywhere he’s been,” New York manager Joe Girardi said. “He’s got very good stuff, he seems pretty durable, he’s pitched in the American League, which is not the easiest place to pitch. He’s pitched in pennant races, so you would expect it to be a good acquisition for the Rangers.”
Texas rallied from a 3-0 deficit Tuesday night, scoring four times in the sixth to take the lead, but the Yankees pushed two runs across in the ninth to come away with a 5-4 victory and win for the second time in seven games.
The Rangers have dropped eight of 10.
Pettitte has also been in a funk, going 2-4 with a 5.40 ERA in his past seven starts. He’s allowed at least four runs in each of those outings, tying the longest streak of his career from Aug. 19-Sept. 21, 1998.
In his last four starts, the left-hander has allowed 13 runs over the first two innings.
“It’s got to change,” Pettitte told the Yankees’ official website. “I can’t keep going out there and giving up two, three, four runs in the first inning and second inning. I feel too good.”
Pettitte gave up four runs in the third inning of an 8-5 loss to Texas on June 26. Including the postseason, he’s 13-11 with a 4.81 ERA in 28 starts against the Rangers.