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Cubs’ Matt Garza recovering quicker than expected

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: March 13, 2013 2:17PM

MESA, Ariz. — Cubs right-hander Matt Garza is optimistic he can make his season debut closer to the two-week mark into the season than the four-week mark after the progress he made this week in restarting a throwing program.

Manager Dale Sveum isn’t so sure of the timeline but says he’s “very encouraged” by the way Garza’s lat injury has responded this week.

“We’ll find out a little bit more [later Wednesday], but he’s doing really well to where it’s pretty much gone it sounds like,” Sveum said.

Garza, who has been sidelined since Feb. 17 with a left lat strain, played catch back-to-back days Sunday and Monday, and said he felt better than expected Tuesday. He was scheduled to throw again Wednesday – including “pushing” it to about 60 feet for the final 10 throws of the session.

“I was expecting to be real, real sore and maybe have to say I’m going to have to pull back,’’ he said. “I was muscular sore but not the old sore. I’m activating muscles. It’s good. It’s just slow.

“So we’ll see.”

Until Sunday, Garza had been shut down for the second time this spring after the lat flared up again.

The stress reaction in his elbow that cost him the final two months of last season appears to be long gone, and barring another setback with the lat Garza said he’s hopeful to be ready to make a spring game appearance by the end of camp.

“We still have three weeks left, so hopefully I can be ready to make an appearance the last week. If not, then possibly in Houston [March 29 or 30],” he said, “then go out and make a couple [minor-league rehab] starts and be ready.”

Sveum is more conservative about the timeline, saying he expects Garza’s season debut to come near the end of April or early May.

“But right now, I’m really, really encouraged by how he’s doing,” Sveum said.

NOTE – Scott Baker, who also will open the season on the disabled list as he returns from Tommy John surgery, fared well in a minor-league start Tuesday and could make his Cactus League debut as soon as Sunday.

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