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Injury forces Cubs pitcher Matt Garza to leave practice Sunday

Chicago Cubs' Matt Garzduring spring training baseball workout Thursday Feb. 14 2013 MesAriz. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Chicago Cubs' Matt Garza during a spring training baseball workout Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013, in Mesa, Ariz. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

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Updated: February 18, 2013 12:00AM



MESA, Ariz. – The spring optimism anybody might have had for a big Cubs’ turnaround season took a hit right below Matt Garza’s left shoulder blade.

Throwing his first live batting practice session of the spring Sunday, the power-pitching right-hander got halfway through his schedule before a twinge in his left lat muscle sent him back to the clubhouse escorted by the team trainer.

Manager Dale Sveum called it a “mild lat strain.”

``Well, I’ve had better days,’’ said Garza, who is to be examined again Monday before the team expects to have a better prognosis. ``It’s not as bad as I thought, so that’s good.

``And my arm felt fine, so I was pretty pumped about that. The ball felt good coming out of my hand, and I think that’s what I’m most upset about. But it shouldn’t be a big thing, and we’ll see [Monday].’’

Garza hasn’t pitched in a game since July 21, when he left a start in St. Louis because of a “stress reaction” in his pitching elbow.

The $10.25-million pitcher has looked especially strong the first week of spring training and was considered one of two front-runners for a possible Opening Day start.

``Hopefully, it’s really nothing and he doesn’t even get really set back as far as Opening Day, and if not, then we’ll have to obviously evaluate the [timetable],’’ Sveum said. ``We have the depth. It’s not that big a deal that way. It’s just too early to know what plan we’re going to take.’’

The Cubs have Jeff Samardzija, Edwin Jackson and Scott Feldman already penciled into the season-opening rotation, with Scott Baker expected to join the rotation a week or so into the season after coming off Tommy John surgery.

Left-hander Travis Wood and right-hander Carlos Villanueva are being stretched out this spring to start and were to have competed for the fifth spot in the opening rotation.

“It’s just night and day to where it was a year ago,’’ Sveum said of the pitching depth.

With six weeks left before the season opens, Garza said he doesn’t think he’ll miss any time.

``They tell me good things, and I look forward to [Monday] and see what’s going on.’’

The good news is his arm continues to feel strong.

``Everything on my right side was fine,’’ he said. ``That’s why I was like, `What the hell? Dammit.’‘’

The downside is that the injury is in a place that could be tricky to heal quickly.

``We’ll see [Monday],’’ Garza said.

What caused it is even less clear.

``I don’t think there’s any rhyme or reason to lat pulls or rib cages or things like that,’’ Sveum said. ``Those kind of things happen from a sneeze and a cough sometimes.’’



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