Righty voices displeasure with club's decision after final start of season
By Adam McCalvy
CINCINNATI -- Matt Garza's latest poor start was the last of his maddening season. Over Garza's fiery objection, the Brewers have removed the veteran right-hander from their starting rotation.
Manager Craig Counsell made the announcement in the wake of an 8-6 win over the Reds in Game 1 of Saturday's day-night doubleheader at Great American Ball Park. In the victory, Garza pitched 4 2/3 innings, exited with a 5-0 deficit and saw his ERA rise to 5.63. The Brewers will use the remaining four or five starts that would have gone to Garza to evaluate younger starting pitchers, beginning on Wednesday in Miami or Thursday in Pittsburgh, depending on how the team aligns its rotation.
"I think it's important that we get Matt ready for 2016," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "He's going to be a member of the rotation in 2016, and we're going to just push the stop button right now."
By financial necessity, Garza remains a critical part of the team's pitching picture. He is only two years into a four-year, $50 million contract, and he's guaranteed $12.5 million in each of the next two seasons. He will be the Brewers' highest-paid pitcher by a wide margin in 2016.
Garza was informed of the decision on Tuesday in a meeting at Miller Park that included general manager Doug Melvin, Counsell and pitching coach Rick Kranitz. Melvin said the Brewers offered Garza the opportunity to forgo his scheduled start in Cincinnati, but Garza wanted to pitch. Melvin, who announced earlier this month he would begin transitioning out of the GM role, also said the Brewers asked Garza to pitch the remainder of the season out of the bullpen, and Garza refused.
On Saturday, Garza took the blame for his poor performance this season but spoke out strongly against the decision to remove him from the rotation.
"It's a decision made from up top, and that's it," Garza said. "We have an acting GM, and in three to four months, I'll be introducing myself to a new one. That's all I've got. For the last nine seasons, I've had a mid-3.00 [ERA], and I have one off year. It is what it is.
"I'm just going to take it just as a chip on my shoulder."
A five-run outburst by Brewers hitters in the sixth inning on Saturday spared Garza from becoming the first Major League pitcher this season to be saddled with a 15th loss, but he surrendered five runs (four earned) on seven hits. Besides the cost of a short start in the first game of a doubleheader, the outing made Garza's ERA the highest in the Majors for a qualified starter in his team's rotation.
The only qualified starters with higher ERAs were previously removed from the role: Kyle Lohse's ERA entering Saturday was 6.27, and Royals right-hander Jeremy Guthrie was at 5.73.
"We wanted to be up front," Melvin said. "Told [Garza] we have other guys we want to give opportunities to and a few guys we need to find out about. Most seasons, we've been in contending status in September, and we don't get that many opportunities to look at guys. I heard all about veteran guys, and we should have been worried about our younger pitchers this year out of Spring Training. Well, the younger pitchers are the ones that have performed very well.
"Then, the other part of it is, if you're not doing well, sometimes there [are] consequences. We did send Scooter Gennett out when he wasn't doing well. We took Kyle out of the rotation when he was not doing well. To put that in the situation right now is that we have the opportunity to look at other pitchers."
In each of Garza's last four starts, he has pitched no more than five innings and surrendered no fewer than four earned runs. In all, he's surrendered 34 hits, 11 walks and 23 earned runs in those outings over 18 innings.
"This is the toughest season -- by far the toughest season," Garza said. "It's not any way I pictured myself going through this year with all the stuff I do in the offseason, all the hard work. Just, to 'wear it' the way I wanted to this year is really tough. But it's all on me. I'm the one that makes the pitches, and that's that."
Neither Garza nor Melvin addressed the financial component of removing Garza from the rotation. His contract includes a 2018 option that vests at $18 million if Garza makes 110 starts over the four guaranteed years of the deal, pitches at least 115 innings in 2017 and is not on the disabled list at the end of that final season. With 53 starts in the books over the first two seasons of the deal, he is just shy of a pace for 110 starts.
In addition, Garza gets a $500,000 bonus for each season he makes 30 starts. Saturday was his 26th start of 2015.
The Brewers still have more than a month of baseball left on the calendar, and Melvin said Garza would be welcome to join the bullpen should he have a change of heart.
Garza suggested that would not happen.
"I'm not going to throw another ball, and that's it," Garza said. "If I wasn't a good team guy, I'd just ask to go home. I've got four kids and a wife pregnant with two. I don't know. I haven't made a decision yet. I'll go from there."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.