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Matt Garza shows progress in rehab appearance

DarwBarney gets close look roll executed by Anthony Rizzo after Rizzo caught pop fly by Ryan Zimmerman eighth. | Nick

Darwin Barney gets a close look at the roll executed by Anthony Rizzo after Rizzo caught a pop fly by Ryan Zimmerman in the eighth. | Nick Wass~AP

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sunday

CUBS AT
NATIONALS

The facts: 12:35 p.m., Ch. 9, 720-AM.

The starters: Scott Feldman (3-3, 2.70 ERA) vs. Gio Gonzalez (3-2, 4.97).

Updated: June 13, 2013 7:32PM



WASHINGTON — It has been nearly 10 months since Matt Garza threw a pitch in a major-league game, but the right-hander’s presence is starting to be felt on the Cubs’ pitching staff like faint breathing at the back of the neck.

Garza (lat strain) had another strong minor-league rehab outing Saturday, throwing 66 pitches in 31/3 scoreless innings for Class AA Tennessee. After probably two more starts at Class AAA Iowa, he could be ready to return from the disabled list.

Which starter from one of the league’s top rotations gets bumped to the bullpen?

Even before Edwin Jackson earned his first victory, manager Dale Sveum reiterated that the worst-performing starter of the early season was exempt.

Sveum said a six-man rotation is out of the question. When he also exempted Opening Day starter Jeff Samardzija and high-performance lefty Travis Wood, it left Scott Feldman (3-3, 2.70 ERA) and Carlos Villanueva (1-2, 3.02) dangling.

“We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” Sveum said. “It’s a nice problem to have. But it’s getting close to that date, and it’s not a cut-and-dried situation.”

Valbuena scare

Third baseman Luis Valbuena left the game Saturday in the fifth inning after jamming his right pinkie on Ryan Zimmerman’s foot sliding into third.

X-rays were negative, and Sveum said he expected Valbuena to be able to pinch-hit Sunday. But he said he’s not ruling out the disabled list.

“It’s his throwing hand, so it’s going to be a little bit tough to throw for a couple days,” Sveum said. “But he’ll definitely, probably be able to swing the bat.”

Ian on ice

General manager Jed Hoyer said he hopes exiled third baseman Ian Stewart has a future in the organization, but the club’s actions belie Hoyer’s assertion. The $2 million player is backing up .219-hitting Josh Vitters at Iowa.

“We’ve got to get Vitters at-bats,” Hoyer said of the former first-round draft pick who long ago fell out of favor with the front office.

After a disappointing minor-league rehab assignment ran out, Stewart was optioned to Iowa and ticked off the club by using his union rights to take three days away from the team before reporting. He was put on waivers and cleared, was outrighted off the 40-man roster and had just two pinch-hit at-bats since through Friday.

Hit man

Jackson’s first victory with his new team was as much about being able to hit as pitch. He drove in the first two runs of the game with a two-out double off Stephen Strasburg.

“If Strasburg punches him out there, it’s a whole different ballgame,” Sveum said.



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