Garza feels 'back to normal' with season debut

Garza feels 'back to normal' with season debut

SAN FRANCISCO -- Brewers pitcher Matt Garza's mind was going so fast when he took the mound for the first time this season that he had to take a few moments to collect himself after retiring the first hitter he faced in Tuesday's eventual 3-2 loss to the Giants.

From that point on, the Milwaukee right-hander pitched as if he had been part of the Brewers' rotation all along instead of someone whose 2016 debut had been postponed more than eight weeks because of a strained right lat muscle.

"After I got that first out, I looked at [Brewers third baseman Aaron] Hill and said, 'Ahh, back to normal, let's go,'" Garza said following his long-awaited outing. "I feel most comfortable in life out there on the mound. I was just happy to be out there and just be pitching. I embraced every moment and every situation."

Garza allowed eight hits and one run over four innings. He walked one, struck out five and repeatedly worked out of trouble while pitching with runners on base in every inning.

About the only blemish that bothered Garza -- outside of Brandon Crawford's two-out RBI single in the third -- was his inability to get deeper into the game and give Milwaukee's taxed bullpen a longer break. Garza threw 87 pitches, 54 for strikes, before manager Craig Counsell repaced him with Corey Knebel to start the fifth.

"Ninety pitches, that's at least six innings," Garza said. "But that's a tough lineup over there. They fouled off a lot. Their two-strike approach is amazing. I call them the king of the dead-ball hits. They find a hole with two strikes and tap it through. It's a great approach and they're very successful at it."

Counsell credited the Giants for their approach against Garza but noted the Brewers helped extend a few of the innings with a lack of defense.

"I thought Matt did a nice job," Counsell said. "They ran his pitch count up and we left some outs kind of out there to run his pitch count up. He had a presence out there; both his breaking balls were good, were solid. I was very pleased with how he pitched. He pitched out of jams and made pitches when he had to."

Garza looked very crisp at times, particularly when the Giants got runners in scoring position. He struck out Matt Duffy to end the first with runners on the corners, got Denard Span to ground out to first with two on in the second then retired Brandon Belt on a popup to shortstop with two on again in the fourth.

"My mind was going so fast and my body was following," Garza said. "But that comes with the territory. First start in 10 months, I was just excited to be out there."

Garza is lined up to make his next start Sunday in Los Angeles against the Angels. By then, the nerves that followed him into his 2016 debut shouldn't be an issue.

"It's just a small step," Garza said of his night's work. "I have to keep working. I'm just happy to be back the way I used to be, just be back to me."

Michael Wagaman is a contributor to MLB.com and covered the Brewers on Tuesday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.