PHOENIX (AP) – Fitting in with a new team is old news for Matt Garza.
Over the past eight seasons, he’s pitched for Minnesota, Tampa Bay, the Chicago Cubs and Texas, compiling a 67-67 record with a 3.84 ERA.
“It’s just baseball,” said Garza, beginning his first season with the Milwaukee Brewers. “It’s a new group of guys you get to know. You hang out, get to know them, see what they’re like.”
The right-hander split last season between the Cubs and Rangers before signing a $50 million, four-year contract with Milwaukee.
Finally, some stability.
“I was looking for somewhere to stick around,” Garza said. “Somewhere where you know you’re not going to get moved in a week. It’s big for my family; it gives them a sense of where we can relocate and start staying together instead of possibly always constantly moving.”
Though he said he has “no preference” between the American League and National League, Garza’s familiarity with the NL Central is a plus. He pitched for the Cubs from 2011 through the middle of 2013.
“You get comfortable with the cities, with the surroundings. It’s always fun to go against the Cardinals, knock them off a little, and the Pirates are starting to come up,” he said.
And when the 30-year-old Garza made his decision to sign with the Brewers, he “already knew the water.”
“I knew who was coming back. I knew what the club brought. I was excited,” he said. “The pitching staff is awesome. The second half of the year, they outperformed most teams.”
As for the position players, Garza noted the Brewers have a healthy Aramis Ramirez going into this season, and slugger Ryan Braun is back from a drug suspension. Up the middle, the pitcher pointed to 2013 All-Stars Carlos Gomez in center field and Jean Segura at shortstop, plus veteran catcher Jonathan Lucroy.
“That’s a lot of offense,” Garza said. “That’s a really good team. … You have run producers for the guys who get on.”
With the addition of Garza, all of a sudden the Brewers boast a pretty solid trio at the top of the rotation, too. He joins proven veterans Yovani Gallardo and Kyle Lohse on a team that finished 74-88 last season.
“We like a lot of our young starters,” manager Ron Roenicke said Monday, just before his pitchers held their first spring training workout. “And some of the guys are going to be disappointed if they don’t make our team.
“But Garza coming in makes a difference in our starting staff. We got a guy that we know has shut down good offenses,” he said. “When Garza is on, you’re not going to hit him.”
Garza’s arrival is “awesome,” said Lohse, who went 11-10 with a 3.35 ERA in 198 innings during his first year with the Brewers last season.
“Adding someone of his caliber … someone who can dominate a game the way he can, is a huge pickup for us,” Lohse said. “You don’t get anywhere unless your starting pitching is good. You can’t depend on outscoring people.”
The opening day starter the past four years has been Gallardo, who acknowledged that he “didn’t have the best year” in 2013, when he went 12-10 with a 4.18 ERA in a modest 180 innings.
“Obviously, with Lohse coming last year, it helped a lot,” Gallardo said. “But it’s a new year. Adding a guy like (Garza), that is going to make the starting five a lot better. … Watching him pitch, you know he’s competitive, and he’s got good stuff.”
The leading candidates to round out the rotation are Wily Peralta and Marco Estrada, among others.
“That gives us five really strong starters,” Lohse said. “We’re going to have a strong bullpen because of it, too. Because somebody in that bullpen will be somebody who can start.”
Roenicke indicated the Brewers’ rotation is their best since 2011, when they won the NL Central in his first season as manager.
“We’ve got choices now,” he said. “The depth is really good for the future here. There’s numbers. There’s big guys. There’s hard-throwers. There’s guys who know how to pitch. There’s a really nice combination.”
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