Free agent Garza undergoes shoulder surgery

Labrum injury, stemming from June collision, ailing veteran righty

January 9th, 2018

MILWAUKEE -- A 10-day stint on the disabled list seemed a minor price to pay for then-Brewers right-hander Matt Garza after he collided with mountainous first baseman at Miller Park back in June. It turns out the price was significantly higher.

Garza, now a free agent, was scheduled to undergo surgery on Wednesday in Los Angeles for a torn labrum in his right shoulder that appears to have been caused by that collision. Given Garza's age and the nature of the injury, the procedure could take the decision of whether to retire out of the 34-year-old's hands.

Garza's agent, Nez Balelo of CAA Sports, confirmed Garza will go under the knife with Dr. Neal ElAttrache, the same surgeon who repaired the torn labrum of another Brewers right-hander and CAA client, Jimmy Nelson, in September. After Nelson's surgery, Brewers GM David Stearns said Nelson would miss a "chunk" of next season. Because Garza's injury occurred while he played for the Brewers, head team physician William Raasch signed off on the procedure, according to Balelo.

The revelation adds context to the waning weeks of the ill-fated final season of Garza's four-year contract with the Brewers. After beginning the season on the 10-day DL with a lat injury, Garza had a 3.98 ERA through his first seven starts going into a game against the Dodgers at Miller Park on June 3, when he and 6-foot-3, 250-pound Aguilar converged on a grounder and collided near first base in the fourth inning.

Garza exited the game an inning later and wound up returning to the DL.

"There's not too many people bigger than Jesus Aguilar in Major League Baseball. So that's not the guy you want to run into," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said the next day.

While the official designation was that Garza had suffered a bruised chest, he knew he also had damaged his shoulder. But with the Brewers a surprise contender, Garza opted to pitch through discomfort for the rest of the season, and for a time, he did so with success.

After eight more starts following the collision, Garza's ERA was a respectable 3.68 in 88 total innings. But the bottom fell out beginning Aug. 8, when Garza was charged with eight earned runs in 3 1/3 innings at Minnesota and began a slide that would cost him his spot in the rotation and ultimately any active role on the staff. He had a 9.11 ERA and a .330 opponents' average in his final eight appearances, and pitched just twice after Sept. 6.

In his 12 big league seasons with the Twins, Rays, Cubs, Rangers and Brewers, Garza threw a no-hitter and twice made it to the postseason with Tampa Bay, winning 2008 American League Championship Series MVP honors for a team that fell to the Phillies in the World Series.

His body prevented Garza from doing more. He found his way to the disabled list in each of the past seven seasons, including all four of his years with the Brewers. He threw 528 1/3 innings for Milwaukee, posting a 4.65 ERA.

"I have no regrets," Garza said on the final day of the season. "I've done everything my way."