MESA, Ariz. — Two MRIs, two setbacks.
The Cubs got a double dose of unwanted news Tuesday as MRIs on pitcher Scott Baker and third baseman Ian Stewart revealed injuries that will keep them out for the foreseeable future.
Baker, who made his first Cactus League start Sunday against Oakland and threw 23 pitches, felt discomfort in his surgically repaired right elbow. He was not scheduled to start the season on the active roster, but the Cubs have suspended his throwing program, and they say they’ll know more this weekend, when Baker sees team orthopedist Stephen Gryzlo.
Stewart, who injured his left quad a month ago, has additional fluid in the area, and the Cubs said he would open the season on the disabled list.
With Baker and Matt Garza (lat muscle) both on the shelf for Opening Day, the Cubs will go with a rotation of Jeff Samardzija, Edwin Jackson, Travis Wood, Scott Feldman and Carlos Villanueva.
“Right now, I’m choosing to be optimistic and hope for the best,” said Baker, who signed a one-year, $5.5 million contract in the fall. He underwent Tommy John surgery last April 17 and missed the entire season with the Minnesota Twins.
“Obviously, any setback of any sort is not something that you like to hear,” Baker said. “But I think we’ll know more when Dr. Gryzlo gets down here and he can do a physical exam. MRIs are great, but you treat the patient. You don’t treat the MRI.”
As for Stewart, he has not had an official Cactus League at-bat. He played in a minor-league game last week, but could not go in another this past Sunday.
“I can’t get through he running part,” Stewart said. “That’s really the last hurdle … I don’t know if playing in the minor-league game the other day hurt it at all. There were a couple of checks-swings where I felt the muscle pull.”
With Ian Stewart out, the door is open for other players to make the team.
Luis Valbuena, who played third base most of the second half of last year, will be the opening-day starter unless the Cubs are able to pick up a player via trade or waivers before spring training ends.
Manager Dale Sveum said it’s “pretty much a no-brainer” that former White Sox infielder-outfielder Brent Lillibridge would make the team after coming to camp as a nonroster man. Lillibridge is 11-for-24 this spring.
“I think any player like that who can play so many positions and you’re in the National League, it’s such a commodity to a manager in the National League,” Sveum said.
“You can get so many people days off. You can mix and match because he can play the outfield. He can pinch run and steal a base. There are so many things. He can hit a ball out of the ballpark.”
Steve Clevenger is the third catcher. He was drafted as an infielder. He has taken reps at first base and third base this spring.
Dave Sappelt, who is on the 40-man roster, is battling to be the extra outfielder. Brian Bogusevic, a nonroster man, also is in the mix for the outfield and backup first-base spot.
Hoping to fit:
Lefty Chris Rusin gave up 7 hits and 4 runs in 5 innings in Tuesday’s 5-4 victory over the Rangers. He got a no-decision and is 2-0 with a 2.50 ERA. Right now, he’s either the No. 6 man on the depth chart for the starting rotation or a candidate for the bullpen. He got 7 big-league starts last year.Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.