Posted at 11:06 PM on September 25, 2006
by David Zingler
Matt Garza's name was on the lips of baseball fans before most had ever seen him. A first round pick in 2005, Garza was a hot-shot prospect that dominated Single, Double and Triple A hitters this season and became first name mentioned by general managers when Terry Ryan called to talk trades. No Garza, no deal was their mantra.
In fact, the only reason Alfonso Soriano isn't suiting up for the local squad right now is because Ryan wouldn't part with his top prospect. "It was in the paper, my dad told me about it," Garza said of the trade rumors. "I really didn't worry about it too much. If they had called me and said 'You're going (to Washington)', obviously I gotta go. I didn't pay attention too much. I still had to take care of business (at Rochester), not worry about trade talk."
He was however, flattered to hear his name mentioned along with established superstars like Soriano, "It's big....it made me feel good," the 22-year-old admitted.
Finally on August 11, Twins fans finally got to see what all the fuss was about. But things didn't go as planned. After striking out two of the first three hitters and igniting the home crowd, Garza got rocked and was pulled after giving up 7 runs in 2 2/3 innings.
"I was fine," the rookie said of his major league baptism. "I was a little upset that it didn't work out the way I wished, but not everything does. I kind of just left everything out there. I needed to calm down, slow everything down and make my pitches. I had the stuff to stay here, I showed I could get people out, I just had to make better pitches."
Garza has shown he can learn on the fly. After a rough start, he's won his last two starts and mixed in a strong relief outing. Baby steps, but not bad for a guy who began the season in Ft. Myers.
"I've been learning a lot since I've been going out there," Garza commented. "It's a different kind of pitching, a different level of pitching. I've just been picking up little tricks of the trade here and there from older guys like Radke, Santana, Silva and guys in the bullpen like Nathan, Crain, Reyes and people like that. Watching them is just as helpful as me being out there. It's a blast -- each time I go out, I feel like I am getting better, making less and less mistakes."
Now that he's settled into big league life, Garza's next challenge is dealing with the increased innings. "I've never gotten up this high before," the former Fresno State star explained. "My first two years of college, I didn't combine for this many innings. It's new land I've got to venture into, I've got to condition more and do what I can to stay here."
Mainly a fastball pitcher in the minors, Garza has incorporated a full repertoire of pitches since reaching the big leagues. He credits pitching coach Rick Anderson for his quick development.
"He's changed a lot of stuff and helped me stay down in the zone," the young hurler said of Anderson. "He kind of lets you do your own thing and if he sees something wrong, you're in danger or it's not going to work then he'll tell you. Obviously, it's your choice to fix it and everybody wants to be good, so they fix it."
The 2006 season has been a memorable one for Garza. He's moved up three minor league levels to the big leagues and made key starts for a contending team during their pennant run. "It's been everything I've worked for, trying to get to the big leagues," the easy going Californian said. "I got here, and it took me less time than I thought, now I've got to work to stay here."
(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Actually, Garza started in Single-A, along with Kevin Slowey. He was moved up to New Britain fairly quickly, but he still started with the Miracle.
Thanks for cacthing that....I guess I should have known.......I made the corrections........anyone know of any other pitchers that began a season in Single A and ended it in the bigs??
I saw a list a while back but I can't find it. Chuck James did it last year, and I think Prior did it too. That Tigers pick from this year already made it but i think he started in AA (Andrew Miller or something?). A lot of college players do start in high-A and make it the next year, but not all start the next year in high-A because by then they're already in AA.