That row of scouts behind home plate Friday had to like what they saw from Matt Garza.
The Cubs right-hander and erstwhile ace came up dealing against the Houston Astros in a 3-1 victory that was delayed more than three hours by rain at the start.
Garza had a deep and efficient outing. He worked into the ninth inning, throwing 98 pitches. He came out after walking Jose Altuve to start the ninth.
Speaking of those scouts, they stuck around to see Kevin Gregg pick up his 11th save in 11 chances.
With the July 31 trading deadline about six weeks away and the Cubs sitting with a 30-42 record, there's at least an even chance Garza -- and Gregg, too -- could be dealt off for prospects.
Garza has heard it all before, and he's not too interested in talking about it.
"Like I just said in my last statement, I'm looking forward to the next five days," he said. "I face Milwaukee in Milwaukee, and I'll be ready."
Since coming off the disabled list May 21, Garza has gone 2-1 with a 4.25 ERA in 7 starts.
Manager Dale Sveum came out to get Garza in the ninth. He'd love the opportunity to keep doing that the rest of the year, but he knows that business is business and that the Cubs will be looking to keep stocking the farm system with prospects, and Garza can fetch them.
"You don't want to lose a guy who can basically give up 1 run in his last 16 innings," Sveum said. "You don't want to give up those guys. But obviously, it's a business, and that's not part of my business."
Health has been the only question with Garza, who has been on the DL in all three years he's been with the Cubs. But he's putting any doubts to rest with a live fastball that has good movement and pop on it. "
"Very good fastball," Sveum said. "He had life and command of it down and away and in. He got his groundballs on fastballs in. The slider got better as the game went along."
Garza had no spring training, and he did most of his prepping to pitch in the minor leagues during rehab outings.
"The stuff's getting back to being more fluid, free and easy, and I'm not forcing a lot of stuff," he said.
Garza got all the offensive support he needed on solo homers from Anthony Rizzo, Darwin Barney and Scott Hairston.
Behind the plate, he had veteran Dioner Navarro catching him for the second straight game. Garza raised a few eyebrows on the last homestand when he seem to be criticizing young catcher Welington Castillo. Sveum said he doesn't believe in "personal catchers" for pitchers, but he went with Navarro this past Sunday in New York, when Garza tossed 7 scoreless innings.
Navarro caught again Friday because the Cubs had a night game Thursday in St. Louis, where Castillo caught all four games. So what's the special chemistry between Garza and Navarro?
"He better listen to me," Navarro said with a laugh. "I've got nothing to do with it. We sit before the game, and we talk about what we want to do and what we like to do, and we go and execute it. That's the biggest thing. Welington has been doing a great job, too, going through the scouting reports and all that stuff.
"I've got nothing to do with it. He's the one pitching. He's the one throwing the ball. I'm just behind there and doing my best to get him the deepest I can."Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.