MILWAUKEE — Matt Garza will begin his 2017 season Monday night when he takes the mound for the Milwaukee Brewers in the first of a three-game series against the Cincinnati Reds at Miller Park.
The 33-year-old right-hander began the year on the disabled list due to a strained right groin sustained in his last Cactus League start.
Garza struggled in 2016, going 6-14 with a 5.63 ERA in 25 starts, but he reported to camp feeling better than he had in years thanks to an improved offseason training program. He went 1-1 with an 8.59 ERA in six spring outings as he tried to focus more on his off-speed pitches on the advice of Milwaukee’s coaching staff.
“As a guy who came up just trying to beat people, it was hard (to adjust),” Garza said. “It was a tough transition. It’s been a long time coming for me to feel good about it. I kind of fell into it last year, and I’ve just kind of been running with that mentality.
“The last two seasons I’ve been trying to establish the ball on the ground, letting the defense work. When your velocity is not where (it used to be) and you keep the ball up where it used to be, it travels a lot further these days. That’s coming with learning how to pitch again. Keeping guys off-balance, that’s what I want. I like where I’m at right now.”
In the past two weeks, Garza made two rehab starts for low Class A Wisconsin, allowing six runs (five earned) on 11 hits in 10 2/3 innings (4.22 ERA). He struck out 12 and walked four.
Garza struggled against the Reds last season, going 0-2 with a 4.35 ERA in two starts, and he is 4-5 with a 4.84 mark against them in 14 career starts.
To add Garza to the active roster, Brent Suter was returned to Triple-A Colorado Springs on Sunday evening.
“I’m eager to see (Garza) pitch,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “I know he’s anxious. He had to wait a little longer, but he’s ready to go.”
The Reds led the National League Central with an 8-2 record before the Brewers took three of four at Great American Ball Park earlier this month. Cincinnati followed that series with a victory the series opener against the Baltimore Orioles but has lost four of five since.
Rookie left-hander Amir Garrett will take the mound for the Reds, looking to continue an impressive beginning to his career. In three starts, Garrett is 2-1 with a 1.83 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 19 2/3 innings.
He enters his first start against Milwaukee as one of the faster pitchers in the game, averaging 19.3 seconds between pitches, putting him fourth in the league.
“I work quick because I’m not a person who likes to think a lot,” Garrett told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “If I think a lot, I get in my own head and that’s when things go wrong for me. It also keeps my teammates on their toes. If I’m working quick, get a ground ball or pop fly, the game is rolling and my team is on their toes so they can make plays.”