Cubs' Garza breaks down his recovery timeline

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Cubs pitcher Matt Garza is slowly making progress after being sidelined with a strained left lat, but still has yet to throw off a mound.

Cubs manager Dale Sveum projected Garza would be ready for the regular season around May 7, but cautioned that it might not be until the middle of May.

Garza threw from 75 feet on Sunday for the second time, making about 20 throws. There's been no pain, which is encouraging. The last time the right-hander was on a mound was Feb. 17 when he ended a live batting practice session after 20 pitches because of discomfort.

"I'm pushing to try to speed it up but they have me on a real set pace right now and it's going real good," Garza said Monday.

He won't attempt to throw off a mound until he's able to play catch from 120-150 feet for a couple days.

"I want to get comfortable throwing and I want to build up arm strength once again," Garza said. "I was 24 days off and that's just under a month and that's too much time for me to just jump on a mound."

The plan has Garza playing catch every other day. On the days he doesn't throw, he takes part in pitchers' drills. He said it's been difficult being sidelined after missing so much time last year.

"It's tough, but like I've said, patience," Garza said. "Being patient is a big thing. I think this is my test -- hopefully, this is my test. I'm excited where I'm at."

The good news is Garza's elbow continues to pass all tests. He was shut down after 18 starts last year because of soreness in his elbow, and ended the year 5-7 with a 3.91 ERA.

"My elbow was fine in December when I first started throwing," Garza said. "That was not even a thought. When this happened [with the lat], I was like, 'Man, something awesome happened and now this happened.' Maybe it's a blessing in disguise. Twenty-four days off of not throwing is just time for it to rest. It's kind of a bonus, but not the bonus I wanted."

Baker has MRI due to soreness in elbow

Baker is working on his mechanics in rehab

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Cubs pitcher Scott Baker, who is coming back from Tommy John surgery, had an MRI on his right elbow Monday because he felt some soreness after his first Cactus League start.

Baker was scheduled to pitch two innings Sunday, but was pulled after facing six batters in the first. He gave up three runs on three hits, including a three-run homer by Oakland's Chris Young, and two walks in one-third of an inning.

"He came in today kind of sore in the [elbow], so we're going to do an MRI today," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said Monday. "[Tuesday] morning, he could come in with no symptoms at all, and it [could've been a] normal-type feeling that other people get who didn't have Tommy John surgery."

Baker was starting his first game since Sept. 24, 2011. He missed all of the 2012 season. The Cubs were targeting a mid-April return for the right-hander, which would be the one-year anniversary of his surgery.

Extra bases

• The Cubs should know more about Ian Stewart's status on Tuesday. The third baseman underwent an MRI on Monday on his left quad.

"We've still got a small window for him to be ready, but obviously that window is getting ready to shut to be ready for Opening Day," Sveum said Monday.

Stewart, who injured his leg Feb. 21 in an intrasquad game, said he felt good on Friday after playing in a Minor League game in which he did not play in the field. He has not played since, which prompted the Cubs to want another test as a precaution.

"The problem with MRIs is you can do them on everybody and you'll find something," Sveum said. "I feel great, but if you do an MRI on my body, it's not going to be very good."

• The Cubs assigned seven players to Minor League camp, including top prospects Javier Baez and Jorge Soler, and reduced the spring roster from 53 to 46 players.

Infielders Junior Lake and Josh Vitters were optioned to Triple-A Iowa, while infielder Christian Villanueva was optioned to Double-A Tennessee. Soler was optioned to Class A Daytona.

Three non-roster invitees were assigned to Minor League camp, including Baez, right-handed pitcher Barret Loux, and catcher Rafael Lopez.

The Cubs' spring roster consists of 24 pitchers (eight non-roster invitees), four catchers (one non-roster invitee), nine infielders (four non-roster invitees) and nine outfielders (three non-roster invitees).