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Ian Stewart’s quad injury could keep third baseman off Cubs’ Opening Day roster

Chicago Cubs third baseman Ian Stewart takes ground balls during infield practice as workouts continue Tuesday February 28 2012 Fitch

Chicago Cubs third baseman Ian Stewart takes ground balls during infield practice as workouts continue on Tuesday February 28, 2012 at Fitch Park in Mesa, Arizona. | TOM CRUZE~Sun-Times

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Updated: March 17, 2013 5:05PM



LAS VEGAS – Ian Stewart’s on-again, off-again spring is off again – and it probably means the third baseman’s off the Opening Day roster.

“I don’t know if he’s got enough time,” manager Dale Sveum said Sunday as Stewart took a third day off because of continued quad soreness and was scheduled for another MRI on the injured area Monday. “It’ll be interesting.”

Stewart strained the quad running out a double in his first at-bats of the spring, in the Cubs’ Feb. 21 intrasquad game, and didn’t play again until batting five times as a DH in a minor-league game Thursday. He’s been sidelined since.

The Cubs can save $1.5 million of Stewart’s $2 million contract if he’s cut before the April 1 opener, but he’ll more likely open on the disabled list and get an extended shot at returning to the field.

Meanwhile, Stewart’s loss could be catcher Steve Clevenger’s gain. The Cubs don’t plan to carry a third catcher, but the versatility of projected utility man Brent Lillibridge and Stewart-replacement Luis Valbuena gives the Cubs the luxury of considering taking Clevenger’s capable lefty bat.

“Clevenger’s obviously a guy that would be interesting,” said Sveum, who also suggested the Cubs will more closely watch the waiver wire in the next two weeks for backup fits. “It’s nice to have a hitter that’s been as hot as [Clevenger] is. Then you can pinch-run for your catcher. It’s actually an interesting spot.”

Clevenger can also play some corner infield and possibly some second base and/or even the outfield.

Free-agent pitcher Scott Baker makes spring training debut

Cubs right-hander Scott Baker faced only six batters in his anticipated Cactus League debut against the Oakland Athletics on Sunday – recording just one out before running out of pitches.

“Trust me, there was some nerves out there,” he said. “I haven’t done it in a while.”

Baker, who is weeks behind the other starters in camp as he continues a cautious and steady rehab since Tommy John surgery last year, allowed three runs on Chris Young’s three-run homer three batters into the game.

He also gave up two singles and two walks.

“The results are one thing, but getting back out there and pitching in front of fans is something I hadn’t done yet,” he said. “It was exciting to get out there and do that today. I feel like I made some decent pitches. Occasionally, I got a little jumpy and left the ball up a little bit. …

“I was throwing all of my pitches today. Did I locate as well as I’d like to? No. but that’s part of the process, too. It’s another step.”

Baker, who missed all of last season because of the elbow, was pitching in his first official spring game since last year and still is expected to make his season debut in mid-April.

“Nothing has changed,” he said. “I am scheduled to start every fifth day, and it is up to the medical staff and coaching staff to make those decisions.”

He was signed as a free agent to a one-year, $5.5 million deal in the fall.



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