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Cubs' Matt Garza scratched from Sunday start

Updated: May 21, 2011 6:10PM

BOSTON – Believe it or not, the Cubs’ starting pitching went from worst to even worse than that, with the news today that Matt Garza’s been scratched from Sunday’s start because of ``tightness’’ in his pitching elbow.

Garza, a 15-game winner for Tampa Bay a year ago, is scheduled to be examined by team doctor Stephen Gryzlo on Monday, and likely will also have an MRI then.

Garza downplayed the potential seriousness. ``I’m not very concerned,’’ he said. ``If this was October and the postseason, I’d definitely be gaming up and going.’’

He’s had similar stiffness in the elbow in the past, he said, ``but it loosened up right away, and I kept pitching. This is one that’s been around a little bit longer.’’

He said he’s been pitching through recurring symptoms for his past two starts and that the condition hasn’t worsened. But it hasn’t gone away or improved, either. After it ``felt great’’ in a between-starts bullpen session in Miami midweek, he said it was ``real tight’’ when he woke up the next morning.

The bottom line is the Cubs won’t have a more solid idea how serious it is or how long it will sideline one of the top strikeout pitchers in the majors until at least Monday.

If it’s a long-term injury, it could be the knockout punch to a season already on the ropes.

For now, the Cubs and Garza are treating it as a one-start issue.

``That’s what we’re hoping,’’ said manager Mike Quade, who plans to lean on James Russell and Jeff Samardzija in a bullpen day to get through Sunday’s game.

The Cubs resisted the ``strong temptation’’ to bring rehabbing starter Randy Wells back from the disabled list after only one minor-league rehab start for Sunday.

``I thought about that. But he’s not ready,’’ Quade said. ``It’s just not the right thing to do. If we were in September or something, we’d be talking about a different animal maybe. But he needs to get one more start in Iowa.’’

Wells, who pitches today for Iowa, remains on track to rejoin the Cubs’ rotation Friday at home against Pittsburgh.

The Garza injury keeps Casey Coleman (2-3, 6.03) in the rotation at least for one more start, pending the prognosis on Garza (2-4, 3.72).

Coming off Friday’s 15-5 loss in Boston, the Cubs’ starting rotation ranks a distant last in the majors with a 5.54 ERA – nearly a full point (0.76) worse the next-to-last Houston.

With Garza sidelined, the Cubs’ rotation, at least for now, is Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano, Doug Davis, Coleman and, presumably, Wells.

The only other experienced option in the Cubs’ system would seem to be 38-year-old Ramon Ortiz, who’s 1-2 with a 4.86 ERA for Iowa after giving up eight earned runs in 5 2/3 innings Saturday.

The Cubs are looking into immediate options for a possible callup to bolster the bullpen today.

Meanwhile, Garza unhappily sits while waiting to find out whether Monday’s exam will result in the second DL stint of his career (15 days in 2008 for nerve inflammation).

``I’ve had better days,’’ said Garza, who was more concerned about the condition affecting the execution of his pitches than about it being an injury issue. ``It is what it is.’’

He theorized the cooler temperatures at home and at times on this three-city road trip have contributed to the lingering effect.

The timing would seem to be especially bitter for Garza, who thrived in starts against Boston as a division rival with Tampa Bay, going 7-4, 3.83, in 18 career starts against the Red Sox – not counting two huge playoff wins in 2008.

``It’s not just tomorrow’s start,’’ he said. ``I’m not a guy that likes pulling my name. I haven’t missed a start for anything. This is a first. It sucks. It feels like I let my team down, but I have to look at the big picture. What if I damage something? You’ve got to put the team first.’’

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