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Matt Garza leaves Cubs’ loss after three innings with cramping

Matt Garzmight have hurt his trade value after leaving game Saturday with cramps. | Dilip Vishwanat~Getty Images

Matt Garza might have hurt his trade value after leaving the game Saturday with cramps. | Dilip Vishwanat~Getty Images

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Updated: August 23, 2012 11:03AM



ST. LOUIS — The Cubs already believed they could make a case for keeping Matt Garza instead of trading him this month.

They might have rested their case unwillingly Saturday when the power-throwing right-hander was forced to leave his start against the St. Louis Cardinals after three innings because of cramping in his lower triceps, near the elbow.

X-rays were negative, and Garza said he was told that the elbow is structurally sound and that he appears to have no ligament damage.

But even in a best-case prognosis, the Cubs’ chances of getting the top value they sought for the former 15-game-winner, who remains under club control for another year, took a hit with only 10 days left before the non-waiver trade deadline.

‘‘If it does hurt the team, what they had in mind, it’s not like I tried,’’ said Garza, whose next scheduled start is in doubt despite the encouraging X-rays. ‘‘I’d rather go out there and throw eight or nine [innings] than come up in here and say I can’t throw four. It sucks.’’

The outcome of the game wasn’t much better. The Cardinals scored all of their runs in the seventh inning in a 12-0 pasting of the Cubs.

Garza, who has a screw near his elbow from a childhood injury, went on the DL for 21/2 weeks last season with tightness in the same area. It was diagnosed as a bone contusion.

‘‘Anything to do with your elbow area as a pitcher, you get nervous,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m still young. I wanted to take the precaution, so I said something. Usually I wouldn’t say anything and go out there and muscle up.’’

Manager Dale Sveum said Garza would be evaluated again in the next couple days to determine his status for his scheduled start Friday against the Cardinals at home.

Garza, who said he had trouble fully extending his elbow after the third inning, didn’t sound especially certain.

‘‘I’m more of an optimist,’’ he said. ‘‘I hope so. I hate missing starts.

‘‘I don’t know how it happened. I’m just pissed off and frustrated because it felt like I was throwing the ball well.’’

That was part of the thinking behind the Cubs leveraging a seller’s market to see if they could get the steep return for Garza they sought

As one official for a shopping contender said regarding the Cubs’ perceived price for Garza: ‘‘You better bring your first-born to the table.’’

But even as the Cubs looked at a trading deadline less than two weeks away, team officials reiterated the value of keeping the 28-year-old Garza as a potential building block.

‘‘We’ve said all along, he’s a really good pitcher, and we need more guys like him and not fewer,’’ general manager Jed Hoyer said. ‘‘He’s a guy that certainly is going to help a team win not only this year and next year, but for a long time.’’

Garza remains under club control as an arbitration-eligible player for one more season. And assuming Saturday’s injury is not serious, keeping him long term is not a difficult case to make.

‘‘There’s always a case when you’re dealing with a young starting pitcher that’s a horse and can dominate a game and that has the stuff and all that,’’ Sveum said. ‘‘Those are the million-dollar questions in an organization that you always deal with.

‘‘Sometimes it’s almost like gambling. If you do trade guys like that, the gamble is the guys you get in return can somehow fill that role, too. But we all know those trades, sometimes you get dominant guys and sometimes it never works out.’’



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