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Cubs Garza ready to make return to mound

Updated: May 18, 2013 5:22PM

Cubs pitcher Matt Garza admitted there was trepidation when he first took the mound for Class AA Tennessee last month, his first since last July.

“The only time I was nervous was when I made my first rehab in Tennessee. The first couple pitches I was a little worried, but then it was fine. Ever since then, there’s been no doubt in my mind.”

There is no doubt anymore for the Cubs, who will return Garza to the rotation Tuesday in Pittsburgh, his first major league action since July 28. He missed the rest of the season with a stress reaction in his right elbow.

His hopes to return for the start of the season were set back in spring training when he suffered a strained left lat.

But Garza’s minor league rehab outings have gone well, including the last one Thursday that confirmed what Garza felt — he was ready to return.

“When they told me to get six innings in and I did, that was the lobbying,” he said Saturday.

Garza pitched six strong innings Thursday for Class AAA Iowa, with manager Dale Sveum admitting Garza had done everything asked of him.

“I’m happy I don’t have to rehab again,” he said. “I just had to refresh some stuff from spring training, got the rust off.

“I feel great, ready to go Tuesday and can’t wait.”

Sveum said the Cubs will move struggling starter Carlos Villanueva to the bullpen and make a corresponding roster move Tuesday, likely sending a relief pitcher to the minors.

Villanueva is 1-3 with a 3.93 ERA but is winless in his last five outings. He was hit hardest in his last three.

“I’m glad I didn’t have to make the decision. I just had to force it,” Garza said. “He’s a true professional and he’ll do whatever he has to to help the team.”

Garza said the 10-month absence from the game was the longest he has ever experienced.

“It was tough mentally but I had my family, my wife and kids to help me through it,” he said. “The mental part was tough, one setback after another, but I’m glad I got through it and can’t wait for Tuesday.”

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