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Chicago Cubs: Grading Matt Garza's Return

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | If you can believe it, Matt Garza had not started a game in the major leagues since July of 2012. On a Chicago Cubs team that has need for as many quality arms as they can get their hands on, Garza's impending return has been the primary focus throughout the month of May.

On May 21, it finally happened. Garza, after pitching six shutout innings for the Cubs' Triple-A affiliate, was activated from the disabled list to face the Pittsburgh Pirates. There are many factors that dictate the overall success of a comeback start but if you were to give Garza a letter grade for his return, an "A" has to be seriously considered.

As you might expect, the length of the outing (five innings) is nothing to get overly excited about. Garza was on a pitch count and once he started racking up a few early strikeouts (five overall), it was all but certain that he would not last beyond the fifth or sixth inning. What was unexpected was that Garza was dominant. He only surrendered one hit, walked three, and gave up no runs.

Just to put the icing on the cake, he drove in two with a two-run double -- this coming from a man who has a career average of .076. Garza's breaking pitches were consistent and tight; he was in command of his entire arsenal. His history shows that when he has that command, he can be as tough as anyone.

To properly welcome Garza to the rotation, the Cubs' bullpen made sure to blow the 3-0 lead Garza left the game with after five innings courtesy of a five-run sixth inning (four coming on Travis Snyder's grand slam off of Shawn Camp -- who I still believe should be cut). The Cubs went on to lose 5-4.

What is strange is the fanfare that Garza carries around with him. Make no mistake, he is a good pitcher, sometimes extremely good, but his career numbers are not that dominant. His career 3.84 ERA is solid but when you add in his lack of durability, it isn't like the Cubs are getting back a perennial Cy Young Award candidate. Garza has long been a pitcher that is said to have the "stuff" to be dominant, but inconsistency and injury have kept him from achieving his full potential. If he is able to pitch anything like he did in his return, the Cubs' rotation will be in good working order -- much better than anyone could have predicted.

The good news for the Cubs is that despite those years of injury and inconsistency, Garza is still only 29. He could still end up a long-term solution atop the Cubs' starting rotation, or, presuming he does not get re-injured (a major presumption), he could be trade bait come July. While a tough decision undoubtedly looms for Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, the Cubs will benefit from either outcome.

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Brian is a lifelong Chicago Cubs follower. Living in Illinois his entire life has given him a chance to closely follow and report Chicago sports as a freelance writer through Yahoo! Contributor and Yahoo! Sports. He is also a senior in college majoring in English and Creative Writing.

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