CHICAGO – Cubs pitcher Matt Garza wasn't going to let another rainy day ruin his first start in nearly 10 months.
Bad weather canceled an April 19 scheduled outing at Single-A Kane County, forcing Garza to instead throw a two-inning simulated game before that day's Cubs game at Milwaukee.
An excited Garza was back in Chicago for the Cubs’ series finale against the Padres after Wednesday’s rehab outing at Double-A Tennessee. Garza said he felt normal soreness after throwing 42 pitches (25 strikes) in 2 2/3 innings during his first outing since July 21.
“I was just glad to throw strikes and glad they were swinging,” Garza said of his start. “I think that’s a good sign. I had no [strikeouts], but that means I got a lot of outs with them swinging at the ball, so that’s what I was kind of looking for.”
Garza expects to make his next rehab start at Triple-A Iowa, likely Monday based on his five-day schedule as long as there are no setbacks. He refused to speculate when he could rejoin the rotation.
“I’m just looking forward to [rehab start] No. 2,” Garza said. “When I get to No. 3, we’ll make those decisions, but right now I’m going to prep my body for No. 2, prep my mind for No. 2 and go from there.”
Lineup adjustments: Don’t get used to watching shortstop Starlin Castro bat fifth for the Cubs.
Although Castro hit fifth in the lineup for the second consecutive game, manager Dale Sveum plans to keep him in the No. 2 spot this season. Sveum decided third baseman Cody Ransom was a better choice to hit second Thursday against Padres left-hander Eric Stults. Since joining the Cubs on April 23 off waivers from San Diego, Ransom is 7 for 14 with three home runs and four RBIs. Ransom is hitting .375 against left-handers this season.
Sveum is still trying to find an effective lineup combination against left-handed starters.
“You have to be creative sometimes with a lineup,” Sveum said. “You can't be so vanilla. If someone's really hot and they're hitting home runs all the time off left handers you want to make sure [Ransom] gets three at-bats off left-handed starter.”
Sveum envisions Castro’s long-term spot in the order as the Cubs’ No. 2 hitter “on prolific offensive teams.” Castro’s inability to draw walks is a hindrance in moving him into the middle of the lineup.
“In our normal lineup he's going to hit second,” Sveum said. “I don't really want to get away from our normal lineup on a daily basis to be left-right-left-right. I think that puts the other manager in a tough spot to bring those lefties in sometimes, especially if they only have one lefty.”
Quick hits: Fourteen players made their Cubs debut in April, the most in one month in the past 98 years. … Cubs third basemen have combined for seven home runs this season – Luis Valbuena has hit five, while Cody Ransom has two – to lead the majors. … The Cubs own a 4-13 record against teams that finished above .500 last year.