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Scott Baker to miss at least half of season with elbow injury

Steve Clevenger

Steve Clevenger

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GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Cubs right-hander Scott Baker likely will miss at least the first half of the season after an exam on his rebuilt pitching elbow determined he suffered a strained muscle while pitching in his first spring-training game March 17.

The team said Baker won’t resume throwing for a month. A rehab program would take at least another two months to get him ready.

Until suffering the setback, Baker was expected to join the Cubs’ rotation in mid-April, close to the one-year anniversary of his Tommy John surgery.

“It’s bad news,” manager Dale Sveum said Sunday. “He’s somebody you were obviously counting on to be there whenever it was going to be, mid-April or May. So that’s bad news whenever you lose a little bit of depth, but it’s just going to take a little bit longer.”

Baker, who had not had a setback during his rehab process until last week, signed a one-year,
$5.5 million deal last fall. The Cubs said at the time they viewed Baker as a potential candidate for a long-term contract, depending on his recovery and results.

“This is obviously a setback, but not where he won’t be able to pitch this season,’’ Sveum said. “We do have the luxury with the depth that we have.”

Sveum has left-hander Travis Wood and right-hander Carlos Villanueva in his opening rotation with Baker and Matt Garza (lat strain) on the disabled list.

They join Jeff Samardzija, Edwin Jackson and Scott Feldman.

No relief for Rusin

This is how mind-twisting the game can be for a young player: Left-hander Chris Rusin pitched well enough this spring that the Cubs were forced to send him to Class AAA Iowa to start the season.

That’s because, with injuries to Garza and Baker, Rusin is sixth on the depth chart of healthy starting pitchers. So the Cubs can’t add him to their bullpen.

“You just try to stay positive,” said Rusin, who was told Friday he’ll continue to start at Iowa in case someone else gets hurt. “It’s difficult not making anything. It’s always tough. You just take it as a learning experience.

“I’ll go down and just work on all the stuff I need to work on and be ready when they call.”

He made seven starts in his first big-league season late last year, going 2-3 with a 6.37 ERA.

Notes

Outfielder Dave Sappelt, who was hit on the neck with a throw while running the bases Saturday, is expected to miss two to three days because of the bruise.

◆ The Cubs optioned reliever Rafael Dolis to Iowa, leaving three pitchers to battle for the final bullpen spot: left-hander Hisanori Takahashi and right-handers Cory Wade and Zach Putnam.



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