State of the rotation: Garza, Villanueva, Vizcaino

State of the rotation: Garza, Villanueva, Vizcaino

February 25, 2013, 4:00 pm
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GLENDALE, Ariz. – The Cubs have no concrete plans for when Matt Garza is going to throw next, but remain confident that he’ll be ready to start the season.

It has been one week since an MRI revealed a strained lat muscle on Garza’s left side. He was already under the microscope after an elbow injury ended his season last July, another push for a front office already motivated to load up on starting pitchers this winter.

“It seems like every day he’s getting better and better,” manager Dale Sveum said Monday at Camelback Ranch. “You can’t put a timetable on it, but it looks like he might be throwing here in a few days, if everything keeps going good. But, I mean, don’t quote me on that.”

Sveum laughed for a moment before a 7-6 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The manager said Garza was showing more flexibility and looking forward to getting back out there. The Cubs have acknowledged that lat injuries are unpredictable.

[MORE: Soriano looking to stay with Cubs, not jump to Yankees]

Garza felt something while throwing live batting practice during the team’s first full-squad workout on Feb. 17 and only made it halfway through his 40 pitches.

“If he’s capable of tossing here in a few days,” Sveum said, “I don’t see why he wouldn’t be ready for Opening Day.”

Team president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer gave Carlos Villanueva a two-year, $10 million contract as insurance for the rotation and promised him opportunities to start.

Villanueva needed 16 pitches before striking out Dodgers leadoff man Dee Gordon. He walked back-to-back batters before Nick Punto hit a two-out, two-run single up the middle. He reached his pitch count after five hitters.

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Villanueva had been a swingman for the Toronto Blue Jays. How does he see his role with the Cubs?

“That’s a question for Jed and Theo and Dale,” Villanueva said. “I’m an employee here. And whatever I need to do to help this team win, that’s what I’m going to do. You prepare for a full season. It doesn’t matter what role it is…it won’t change my mentality.”

The Cubs have already pushed back Scott Baker as he recovers from Tommy John surgery. They aren’t expecting the veteran right-hander in the rotation until mid-April at the earliest.

[MORE: Cubs taking it slow with Baker]

Sveum confirmed that Arodys Vizcaino – the 22-year-old top prospect acquired from the Atlanta Braves in the Paul Maholm deal last summer – will not pitch in the Cactus League and will stay in extended spring training.

[RELATED: Vizcaino cracks Baseball Prospectus' Top 101 prospect list]

Vizcaino underwent the Tommy John procedure during spring training last year and missed the entire 2012 season. If everything breaks right, he could be in the big leagues near the end of this season, but the Cubs are in no rush with one of their most valuable assets.