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Garza shines in return, but bullpen scuffs up save in loss

Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Matt Garzdelivers fifth inning baseball game against Pittsburgh Pirates Tuesday May 21 2013  Pittsburgh. (AP

Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Matt Garza delivers in the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates Tuesday, May 21, 2013 , in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

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Updated: May 22, 2013 9:13PM



PITTSBURGH — The race is on.

Matt Garza’s powerful return to the mound after 10 months sidelined with injuries signaled the restart of his run-up to the trade deadline that was halted abruptly by an elbow injury last July, with many of the same scouts who followed him then returning for another look Tuesday.

Either that, or it jump-started the Cubs’ surge into contention that will make their front office rethink its plans to sell off productive players.

Uh, scratch that last one if a 5-4 loss Tuesday to the Pittsburgh Pirates was any indication. Not even five scoreless innings of one-hit pitching by Garza was enough to solve the kind of problems that already had the Cubs buried deep in the National League Central standings before he returned.

‘‘I had a little nerves I had to fight off a little bit early, but I was disappointed I didn’t take it deeper,’’ said Garza, who handed a 3-0 lead to the bullpen, only to watch three relievers turn it into the Cubs’ 10th blown save of the season. ‘‘It felt great getting back out there, but it sucks the way it ended. I felt I could have kept going, but I’m just following the program they’ve got me on.’’

More significant than pinch hitter Travis Snider’s grand slam against Shawn Camp on this night was Garza’s dominant return.

The significance outside the clubhouse is all about the prospects the Cubs might get a year later than originally planned. Inside the clubhouse, it’s about a chance to go on a run and persuade the front office to add at the deadline.

‘‘It’s possible,’’ veteran outfielder Alfonso Soriano said.

The Cubs have 10 weeks to the trade deadline — and maybe six to prove something to the brass.

‘‘The Garza situation — just from the outside, not even as a teammate — is just kind of weird,’’ fellow right-hander Jeff Samardzija said. ‘‘He’s a guy that’s loved in the clubhouse so much, a team leader. He’s definitely a dude that you want around for a long time.’’

The window of opportunity for that is narrow and might depend on what kind of discount Garza would be willing to give the Cubs on a multiyear deal after spending time on the disabled list for three consecutive seasons. It might depend just as much on what kind of offers the Cubs get from other teams for him.

‘‘You always want an arm like Garza’s in your rotation,’’ manager Dale Sveum said. ‘‘It all comes down to where we’re at in the organization and what we feel is the right thing to do at the right time.’’

Samardzija said the progress he has seen in the rebuilding process during the last year should come into play in a decision about Garza.

‘‘I think we see which direction we’re heading,’’ Samardzija said. ‘‘It’s a tough decision [for the front office]. . . .

‘‘It’s really hard as players. You just never know what’s going to happen or what their plan is. But coming from us in the clubhouse, we don’t want to see him go anywhere.’’



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