Brewers right-hander Matt Garza learned today that a strained lat muscle will sideline him for the next four to six weeks, he told reporters, including Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (Twitter link). Garza has been dealing with some tightness in his shoulder, but based on his comments, he wasn’t anticipating anything overly serious from his medical examinations. Via MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy (Twitter link), Garza told the media: “I’m not afraid of work, it just wasn’t what I was looking forward to at the beginning.”
Garza, 32, was expected to return to the Brewers’ rotation after losing his spot late last season, but he’ll now spend the foreseeable future on the disabled list instead. Right-hander Zach Davies stands out as a likely candidate to step into the rotation alongside fellow right-handers Wily Peralta, Jimmy Nelson, Taylor Jungmann and Chase Anderson, although top prospect Jorge Lopez received some Major League experience in 2015 as well. And, as McCalvy further tweets, the Brewers won’t need a fifth starter through the first 11 games due to scheduled off days, so there’s no immediate need to promote a starter in Garza’s place. For the time being, righty Tyler Cravy will be promoted to take Garza’s roster spot.
While the rebuilding Brewers aren’t expected to contend this season, it’s nonetheless a disappointing way to begin the season. After losing potential closer Will Smith to a freak LCL tear, Garza’s injury thins out the pitching depth a bit more and also eliminates the possibility of the once-excellent veteran rebuilding some trade stock with a strong early showing. While Garza could, of course, do so upon his return in what appears to be May or June (based on the presented timetable), he already has a fairly lengthy injury history under his belt, and a recent shoulder issue won’t do his stock any favors come July even if he’s pitching well. Last season, Garza struggled to a career-worst 5.63 ERA in 148 2/3 innings.
Garza is entering the third season of a four-year, $50MM contract with Milwaukee which also contains a complex fifth-year option that is largely dependent on the health of his right arm. (The $5MM club option turns into a $13MM vesting option if Garza throws 110 games over the course of the contract’s first four seasons but also shrinks to just a $1MM option if he spends more than 130 days of a season on the disabled list.) The Brewers owe Garza a combined $25MM between the 2016 and 2017 seasons, which is spread out evenly by annual salaries of $12.5MM.
In further injury news, the Brewers have also lost bullpen candidate Yhonathan Barrios to shoulder surgery, as McCalvy tweets. The 24-year-old Barrios, acquired from the Pirates last summer in exchange for Aramis Ramirez, had his rotator cuff repaired by renowned surgeon Dr. James Andrews. Barrios made his big league debut with the Brewers in 2015, firing 6 2/3 scoreless innings out of the ’pen. In that brief but dominant cameo, Barrios allowed just three hits and no walks while averaging 96.4 mph on his heater and striking out seven hitters. His minor league work wasn’t quite as impressive, however; Barrios logged a solid 2.83 ERA in 60 1/3 innings between Double-A and Triple-A, but the hard-throwing righty also averaged just 5.5 strikeouts against 3.3 walks per nine innings pitched.