TEMPE, Ariz. - Cubs manager Dale Sveum said he anticipates right-hander Scott Baker getting his first spring start sometime in the middle of March, then opening the season on the disabled list and - barring setback - making his Cubs debut sometime in mid-April.
``He's just right on schedule,'' Sveum said after Baker impressed his pitching coach and himself in a 45-pitch bullpen session Satuday. ``Knock on wood, there hasn't been any setbacks, and he's feeling great. The effort level obviously picked up [Saturday]. I'm just looking forward to getting him against live hitters.''
Baker, who appears healthy after missing all of last season because of Tommy John surgery, is scheduled to throw another bullpen session Tuesday.
``It's another step in the right direction,'' said Baker, who added he isn't testing his strength as much as regaining form right now. ``For me, [the strength level] is more mechanical than physical. I'm throwing with as much intensity as my mechanics allow right now. You hear a million times, stay within yourself. That's never more true than now.''
If Matt Garza (lat strain) is ready to start the season on time, it leaves Travis Wood and Carlos Villanueva competing for Baker's spot in the opening rotation. Jeff Samardzija, Edwin Jackson and Scott Feldman are in, barring injury.