Neither Scott Baker nor Matt Garza pitched after July 2012, but both should be ready to pitch by Opening Day 2013, according to Cubs President Theo Epstein. Garza has been out since late July with a stress reaction in his elbow, and Baker missed all of 2012 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Each has been rehabbing and has started throwing, and things are looking good.
“Both guys should be ready to start the year,” Epstein said Wednesday, per Jesse Rogers. “Garza we expect to be full go in Spring Training and ready to start the year. And Baker, if he stays on schedule that’s laid out for him now – he’s up to about 75 pitches by the end of March. So we’ll just make a call from there. Both guys are on a nice timetable for the start of the season.”
In other words, each pitcher should be ready by Opening Day, but the Cubs might not necessarily open the season with them in the rotation if they’d prefer to take a cautious tack (or, well, if Garza has been dealt).
Epstein elaborated on the Cubs’ options, given their pitching depth.
“I think our depth gives us the luxury, if Baker for example needs an extra week or a rehab start because he’s not fully ready to go deep into games, we can do that with our depth,” Epstein said, per Paul Sullivan. “Whether it’s appropriate to stretch him out further or let him pitch or piggyback, we’ll see.”
The piggyback* comment is interesting, given our previous consternation about how the Cubs would deal with having as many as seven starting pitchers available from Day One – Garza, Baker, Jeff Samardzija, Edwin Jackson, Scott Feldman, Travis Wood, and Carlos Villanueva (who has not officially been signed yet).
Obviously, if they’re all healthy and around, Garza, Samardzija, and Jackson are locks for the rotation. Feldman was essentially promised a starting spot, so you can slot him in, as well. If Baker piggybacks, you could then have, perhaps, Wood in the rotation, and Villanueva in the bullpen as a swing guy, which he’s done before.
Garza, for his part, just tweeted this morning: “Just got Clearance for takeoff! #crawltowalk now its #walktorun! #GoCubsGo.” So, yeah, I’d say he’s feeling good.
*Essentially, either Baker or the “other” starter would pitch three or four innings, and then Baker or the “other” starter would take over for the next three or four or five innings. As long as neither pitcher gets bombed out after just an inning or two, the plan doesn’t really tax the bullpen any more than usual.