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Garza makes long-awaited return Tuesday against Pirates

Matt Garza

Matt Garza

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The Cubs acquired Matt Garza two seasons ago in a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays to be an ace, and his credentials backed up that hope.

At the time of his acquisition, Garza was 26. He had a 52-44 record, had thrown a no-hitter in 2010 and had been named the most valuable player of the 2008 American League Championship Series.

The stakes won’t be quite as high when Garza makes his season debut Tuesday against the host Pittsburgh Pirates, but he figures to be stoked.

‘‘There will be a different energy in a major-league game,’’ Sveum said of Garza, who is coming off four minor-league rehab starts. ‘‘We’ve taken this slow. His durability is fine. He worked so hard, so that’s probably the last thing we have to worry about with him.’’

Garza returns to the rotation 10 months after suffering a stress reaction in his right elbow. It happened just before the July 31 trade deadline, ending speculation on Garza being moved. A strained left lat in spring training set back his return.

Sveum expects Garza’s emotions to be high, but with a rested bullpen, Garza will be kept on a pitch count of about 85.

Carlos Villanueva (1-3, 3.93 ERA in eight starts) will be moved to the bullpen.

The rotation has been an early surprise with an ERA of 3.48, and the bullpen has been performing better in the last month.

‘‘Getting Garza back is going to be a big boost,’’ starter Scott Feldman said.



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