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 New York Yankees.
”He’s excited, big smile on his face. I think I sat here with just as a big a smile as he did,” manager Ron Washington said Tuesday. ”He’s ready to go, man. I wouldn’t expect anything less. `’
The Rangers acquired Garza on Monday from the Chicago Cubs. Texas immediately traded three players to the Cubs, 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.
Garza 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.”
Garza didn’t talk to reporters at Rangers Ballpark on Tuesday. The Rangers said Garza, whose locker is right next to Soto, was sticking to his own policy of not doing interviews the day before pitching.
”`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,” Soto said. ”He’s going to prepare, he’s going to give you 100 percent. Guaranteed.”
Texas optioned right-hander Cory Burns and lefty Joseph Ortiz to Triple-A Round Rock to clear spots on the 25-man active roster for Garza and right-hander Alexi Ogando, who was activated from the disabled list to start Tuesday night against the Yankees.
Derek Holland (8-5), the only pitcher from the Rangers’ season-opening rotation who hasn’t been on the DL this season, was initially scheduled to pitch Wednesday night against his idol, Andy Pettitte. 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 didn’t want Garza to sit much longer after not pitching Monday night.
”Plus, we want to get him a chance to feel what this heat is like, rather than him first game out he’s going in a day game,” Washington said. ”Derek has done it before, so we send Derek out there.”
Holland said it’s huge to add Garza, who pitched in the 2008 World Series for Tampa Bay and in the 2010 AL division series for the Rays against Texas.
Garza (6-1, 3.17 ERA) can become a free agent after this season. He made 11 starts for the Cubs and missing the first seven weeks this season with a strained left lat muscle.
Asked about interest in signing Garza beyond this season, Rangers general manager Jon Daniels responded, ”Let’s let him get here, get settled and hopefully we have a good mutual experience together the next three months, and then we’ll re-visit.”
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 right elbow.
Garza has a 63-62 career record in 181 major league games (178 starts) with Minnesota (2006-07), Tampa Bay (2008-10) and the Cubs (2011-13). He was a first-round draft pick by the Twins in the 2005 amateur draft.
The last time Garza pitched against the Yankees 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.”