2/17 Garza one of early birds in camp

Matt Garza arrived in Arizona at least two weeks before pitchers and catchers have to report for Spring Training and the Cubs pitcher said he felt he was late.

“Look at everybody here,” said Garza, one of the early birds at Fitch Park on Friday as players prep for the official opening of camp.

Pitchers and catchers will have their first workout Sunday afternoon, with position players holding their first session on Feb. 24. On Friday, Kerry Wood and Rodrigo Lopez each threw off the mound, hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo conducted early sessions in the cages, and Darwin Barney, Bryan LaHair and Josh Vitters were among those practicing on the half field.

The right-hander said he’s in his best shape and eager to build on his second half. Before the All-Star break, Garza was 4-7 with a 4.26 ERA in 16 starts. In the second half, he was 6-3 with a 2.45 ERA in 15 games.

“I learned a lot from the second half and I remember what that feeling is like and I want to get out here and duplicate it,” Garza said. “Right now, my body is better than when I’ve come in before. I’m in better shape, things are stronger. It’s just been a great offseason.”

One other matter he took care of was his contract, avoiding arbitration by agreeing to a $9.5 million one-year deal with the Cubs. Could a long-term deal be in the works?

“I don’t talk about that,” Garza said. “That’s between my agent and myself, and my agent and the front office. If they want to contact us, whatever way it works, is great. My main focus is getting ready for April 5 and having fun again.”

— Carrie Muskat


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