Garland successful against White Sox
Spent eight years with Chicago before trade to Angels
TEMPE, Ariz. -- If Friday's Cactus League start against the White Sox meant more than simply another day of Spring Training work to Jon Garland, then the laid-back hurler certainly wasn't tipping his hand to its effect after exiting the contest in the fourth inning.
"Get your work in, get pitches in and try to accomplish everything you are trying to accomplish and go from there," said Garland in a matter-of-fact tone, describing his first trip to the mound against a team where he spent the first eight years of his Major League career as a productive member of the starting rotation.
"You know what, there are only a couple of guys in that lineup who I played with for that long -- [Joe] Crede and [Paul] Konerko," Garland added. "I had faced everyone else at some point or another."
Actually, Garland had never faced Alexei Ramirez, the Cuban émigré who came to the White Sox as a free agent this past offseason. Garland also has no career record against Juan Uribe, Brad Eldred or Dewayne Wise, who were part of the White Sox split-squad starting lineup at Diablo Stadium.
But the gist of Garland's statement was clear concerning the team which traded him to the Angels for shortstop Orlando Cabrera in mid-November. Garland has moved on, with a focus on helping the Angels win a title.
While Garland maintains a number of friendships with his former teammates, he isn't overly concerned with how those players show themselves as a group in 2008 among a highly competitive American League Central.
"I wish them the best, but not too much," said Garland with a wry smile. "It's tough with the team Cleveland has right now in the Central. They brought everyone back and they are young guys.
"They got a taste of it and they will be more hungry this year. And what Detroit did. I mean, if you are a person who likes baseball and you don't open your eyes and see what they did, then you are blind as a bat. It will be a rough path for them.
"Then, trying to get back on track from last year," added Garland of the White Sox. "If things don't get off to a good start out that way, they might just jump on them right away."
The 28-year-old right-hander enters the 2008 season sitting eight victories away from 100 for his career. With Kelvim Escobar and John Lackey both battling spring injuries, there's an outside shot Garland could emerge as the Angels' Opening Day starter in a rotation working seven deep.
He has been fine-tuning a new grip for the curve ball, trying to make that pitch an effective part of his repertoire. But the sinker is still the pitch Garland relies upon, as evidenced through the seven outs Garland recorded via the ground ball over three innings on Friday.
Having been traded from the Cubs to the White Sox in 1998, just one year after the Cubs made him their top pick in the First-Year Player Draft, helped Garland adjust to this most recent move. The fact that Garland is an established big league pitcher also helped in his acclimation to life with new coaches and new teammates.
Yet, Garland hasn't totally been able to grasp the purpose behind his trade away from a team which won a World Series title three years ago based on pitching and defense. Garland seemed the most expendable of the White Sox starting five because of his past success and the fact that his three-year, $29 million contract expires after the 2008 campaign.
Many assumed Garland would walk away from the White Sox during the next offseason, looking for big years and big money. Garland stated categorically Friday how that particular assumption wasn't exactly on the mark.
"I was kind of shocked when everybody thought, 'He just wants to go West. That's all he wants.' It wasn't the case," Garland said. "I was never asked, never talked to. Nobody really asked me and got the truth.
"To trade a pitcher ... . I feel like I did a pretty [darn] good job over there the past three or four years, putting up innings and getting out there every day and giving the team a chance," Garland added. "There was some shock there."
A return to the White Sox some day would not be out of the question for Garland, although he quickly added, "I couldn't imagine it because they had their chance."
Those contractual issues stand a long way off, with Garland focused on preparing for his debut effort in Anaheim.
Against the White Sox, Garland struck out Eldred to go along with the ground balls and gave up Jermaine Dye's second-inning home run and A.J. Pierzynski's ensuing single. Garland retired both Crede and Konerko on grounders back to the mound, in what was a weird matchup for the White Sox third baseman.
"Yeah, it was strange," Crede said. "You know what he's got, but it's a different story whenever you are up there and actually face him and see his pitches and what they really do as a hitter. As a fielder, you see what they do out there. But it's a whole new story when you step in that box."
"It was weird coming to the park, knowing you are going to face him because he wasn't on your club," Dye added. "Once the game starts, you are out there battling."
Crede spent a few minutes talking to Garland before the game and said with a laugh how "he's the same old Jon."
Manager Ozzie Guillen quipped that Torii Hunter, the free agent center fielder who picked the Angels over the White Sox in an 11th-hour decision before Thanksgiving, gave him a better hug than Garland.
Guillen also thanked Garland for the work he did during his Chicago stint. Garland extended the same gratitude to an organization which stuck with him through slightly leaner years at the start of his career.
"It can look weird with that uniform, like seeing one of your kids play against you," said Guillen of Garland. "Garland was a big part of a nice run here. I wish him the best and hopefully he helps those guys to win where they want to go.
"We needed a player like Cabrera and they asked for him. To get a good player, you have to give up something. We feel confident in Gavin Floyd and [John] Danks. That's the reason we did it."
Bragging rights belonged primarily to Garland on Friday, although Dye expected to receive a call or a text from his friend after the leadoff blast in the second. Garland played down the rivalry from start to finish, smirking at the idea of a big spring showdown.
There was one parting shot thrown out to Mark Buehrle, his good friend and former teammate, who had sent a humorous warning text to Garland earlier in the week concerning the lineup on its way from Tucson.
"Buehrle was texting me, saying they were going to send the A-squad to make a statement," Garland said. "If that was the case, I think it backfired a little bit. He was joking around.
"When he told me they were sending the A-squad, I asked him if he was coming up. When he told me no, I told him, 'You are right. They are bringing the A-squad.'"
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.