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Cubs’ Matt Garza has learned from drying times in Arizona

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

PHOENIX — Right-hander Matt Garza hasn’t had a chance to enjoy much of the first month of his Cubs career. Early inconsistency, a lack of run support (twice), two blown saves and errors Monday have conspired to leave him winless through his first five starts.

So maybe it only figures that his last start of April would come tonight in Arizona.

If you don’t remember Garza’s first experience in Arizona, during spring training, he does.

‘‘It sucks,’’ he said of the arid conditions 32 days ago after his last start of a bad spring (1-4, 10.38). ‘‘You grab a ball, and it feels like you’re throwing freaking slime because it’s so slippery, and you can’t get anything on your fingers — not enough spit, not enough resin, nothing.’’

So what does he plan to do about that tonight? Nothing. At least nothing different from what he’s been doing the last two weeks.

‘‘I know what to expect now,’’ he said. ‘‘I know I’m not going to be caught off guard with dryness and stuff like that. So I’ll be fine.’’

If Garza sounds especially confident, maybe it’s because he seems to have settled into a groove over his last three starts with sharper location and a healthy mix of pitches. He has allowed just one earned run in his last 13 innings.

‘‘I think I’ve found what’s working, and I’ll stay with what works,’’ he said.

He’s a shortstop

Despite the occasional knee-jerk suggestion that the Cubs should move mistake-prone shortstop Starlin Castro to another position — even swap him with second baseman Darwin Barney — the Cubs aren’t considering that.

‘‘I don’t agree with that,’’ manager Mike Quade said. ‘‘First of all, Starlin’s going to be a really good shortstop, and if I didn’t believe that, then that might be worth a conversation. And as good as Barney is at second, I’m not sure how good he’d be at short on an everyday basis. I like it just the way it’s set up right now.’’

Quade has seen this before. He got the same doubts about eventual MVP shortstop Miguel Tejada when he had Tejada in Oakland’s minor-league system.

‘‘Outside people, scouts and people I respected, questioned his ability to play short,’’ Quade said. ‘‘We as an organization never did. . . . I think kids grow up in a hurry, and I’ve seen too much of it to jump the gun on anything.’’


Despite coming back to earth some after a torrid start, Castro was back in the No. 3 spot in the order Friday, and Quade said he might stay there for a while.

◆ Struggling lefty Carlos Pena, with 23 strikeouts and just 10 hits (no homers) in 63 at-bats, was out of the lineup Friday night despite a right-handed opposing starter. Quade said Pena’s slump was a factor, along with a desire to get Jeff Baker playing time.

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