There are several reasons the Cubs are in no hurry to activate third baseman Ian Stewart back from the disabled list.
One of those reasons is Luis Valbuena.
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Valbuena hit his second late-inning home run of the week Thursday night, and this time the Cubs' bullpen allowed it to hold up as the game-winner in a 4-3 victory over the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park.
With two outs in the top of the ninth inning, Valbuena crushed a pitch from Marlins closer Steve Cishek over the right-field wall to break a 3-3 tie. He homered in the 13th Monday at Cincinnati, but reliever Michael Bowden could not hold the lead.
Carlos Marmol, recently reinstalled as closer in fact if not in designation, survived Thursday's ninth to earn his second save. Marmol gave up a walk and a hit to the first two hitters of the inning but got three outs to preserve the victory.
As for Valbuena, he's a journeyman making the most of an opportunity.
Claimed off waivers by the Cubs just before the start of last season, he took over as the main third baseman after Stewart's 2012 season ended early because of a wrist injury. Valbuena then outlasted rookie Josh Vitters, who neither hit nor fielded particularly well after his call-up last August.
This spring Valbuena was the man again after Stewart opened the season on the disabled list with a quad injury that has been slow to heal. So far, so good for Valbuena. Thursday's homer was his fourth of the season.
"I tried to hit a homer on that pitch right there," Valbuena told reporters. "I didn't want to play extra innings."
Valbuena's overall hitting line is .237/.338/.475. Manager Dale Sveum always has liked Valbuena's fielding ability. That's why Valbuena was re-signed in the off-season and virtually guaranteed at job at the start of spring training. He might get to keep that job awhile.
"I'm ready every day," he said. "I can't make that decision."
Stewart is off to a slow start in his rehab at Class AAA Iowa. Entering Thursday's game at Omaha, Stewart was 2-for-24. If and when Stewart comes back, there's no guarantee he gets his starting job back.
"He's got to earn it," Sveum said, adding that Valbuena is "one of our most consistent players right now. So it's going to be very difficult to move (him) out of a spot."
•Pitcher Matt Garza is said to be doing better after suffering from a "dead arm" following last Friday's simulated game. Garza, who is recovering from a left-lat-muscle strain, had a minor league rehab start at Class AA Tennessee called off Wednesday.
"It sounds like it's just soreness, just normal stuff," Sveum told reporters. "Hopefully that continues."