SAN DIEGO — Remember when the Cubs’ starting rotation was the backbone of an impressive run from late June through July?
That’s fast becoming a distant memory since the top two performers were traded and the third not in danger of missing the rest of the season.
Matt Garza, who hasn’t pitched since experiencing stiffness in his pitching elbow in his July 21 start, was shut down indefinitely Monday after new x-rays revealed what the team called a “stress reaction” in the back of the elbow.
It amounts to an irritation at the tip of one of the bones in the elbow, and his status is to be re-evaluated homestand-by-homestand, says the team. General manager Jed Hoyer said Garza won’t be allowed to pick up a baseball for at least two weeks.
“He felt really good on Saturday [when he threw a bullpen session]. I think that’s probably the surprise of it,” Hoyer said.
When Garza tried to play catch Sunday, the stiffness returned.
Hoyer wouldn’t rule out a return to the mound at some point this season for Garza, mostly because Garza’s expected to push for it, the GM said.
An added benefit to a successful return, of course, is keeping alive the Cubs’ option of re-opening trade talks involving Garza with several teams next winter.
“That’s the last thing we’re thinking about. We’re just trying to get this guy healthy,” Hoyer said. “He’s under control for next year [as an arbitration eligible player]. He’s likely to be a member of the Cubs in 2013, and we’re excited to have him.”
Meanwhile, left-hander Brooks Raley – the Cubs’ minor league pitcher of the month for July – gets the first shot at filling Garza’s rotation void. He’s scheduled to make his major league debut Tuesday in San Diego.
Garza was placed on the 15-day DL, retroactive to July 22.
That leaves Chris Volstad as the only healthy pitcher in the Cubs’ organization with even one full season of continuous starting experience in the majors. (Rodrigo Lopez and Randy Wells are both on the minor league DL).