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Matt Garza puts in eye-popping rehab stint

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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Could the Cubs get a big boost to their starting rotation next week?

Matt Garza might have made that decision easy with six scoreless innings Thursday for Class AAA Iowa. He allowed two hits and struck out six without a walk.

Garza needed 75 pitches in what likely was his final minor-league rehab start. If so, the Cubs could activate him from the disabled list to start Tuesday in Pittsburgh.

“Obviously, he’s a great pitcher with everything he does on the mound,” starter Jeff ­Samardzija said. “He’s also a leader in the clubhouse and leader with the younger guys in how to work and how to do things the right way.”

Garza hasn’t pitched since July, when an elbow injury ended his season. Then a lat strain wiped out his spring training.

Without Garza, the Cubs’ starting staff ranks fourth in the National League (3.55 ERA), but the team is 17-23.

“It’s only going to get better when we get him back, and we obviously want him to be healthy,” Samardzija said. “That’s the most important thing.”

Carlos Villanueva (1-3, 3.93) likely will move to the bullpen.

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