BY MEGHAN MONTEMURRO
MESA, Ariz. – Cubs pitcher Matt Garza’s only focus is being ready for the season.
Garza was ahead of schedule as he works back from a season-ending stress reaction in his right elbow, but a mild lat strain disrupted his plans. Garza’s main goal is to be ready for the start of the season, even if that means missing opportunities to pitch during spring training.
“I’m not worried about the spring starts,” Garza said. “I’m more concerned about being prepared for opening week, Opening Day. Right now, if I stay on my pace and stay patient and let it heal, I’ll be fine. I’ll be ready.”
Garza said his lat strain is getting better every day, though it’s been a slow process. He conceded that “maybe I came out too strong, too fast,” and this injury is his body’s way of telling him to slow down.
“Some people say I shouldn’t even be laughing, but it doesn’t hurt, so it’s a good thing,” Garza said.
Soler power: The hype surrounding outfielder prospect Jorge Soler will only grow after his spring training debut.
Soler hit a solo home run on a 3-1 pitch from right-hander Nick Struck over the left-field wall in his first at-bat at HoHoKam Stadium.
Granted, it was only an intrasquad game, but manager Dale Sveum was impressed with Soler, who finished 1-for-2.
“Pretty nice bat speed … took a walk,” Sveum said. “That’s the kind of stuff that’s on the radar now. There are some guys on that radar right now that could possibly be impact players someday.”
The White team, featuring most of the Cubs’ expected starters, beat the Blue team 7-3 in a five-inning game.
“It’s just nice seeing these guys play,” Sveum said, “because we’ve all come across tools guys and bat speed and all that, and it never seems to pan out.”
Shortstop Javier Baez struggled a little in his debut, finishing 0-for-2 with a strikeout and a bobble in the field that prevented him from turning a double play. But third baseman Junior Lake also stood out with a stand-up triple off the center-field wall and lined out hard to shortstop.
Senior vice president of scouting and development Jason McLeod expects Soler and Baez to start at Class-A Daytona, while Lake will likely begin the year at Triple-A Iowa.
“We generally have an idea of where they’re going to start the year,” McLeod said. “You never try to let [spring training performance] dictate too much.”
Nicked up: Cubs third basemen have caught the injury bug.
Third basemen Ian Stewart and Josh Vitters both suffered a slight left quad strain Thursday and are considered day to day.
Sveum said Stewart appeared to have pulled his quad when he slipped out of the batter’s box on his first-inning double. Stewart initially thought it was a cramp, but Sveum wanted to be precautious and pulled him from the game.