TEMPE, Ariz. - The diagnosis doesn't help his chances, but Ian Stewart says he's confident that neither his injured left quad nor his non-guaranteed contract status will prevent him from being the Cubs' third baseman on Opening Day.
Some of the related facts suggest a little more urgency and uncertainty surrounding the issue than Stewart acknowledges.
MRI results revealed a "mild to moderate" strain that manager Dale Sveum said Saturday will keep Stewart out of games for at least three weeks, "which puts you at three weeks before Opening Day, so if he's capable and the leg's fine, it'll be a cram session, that's for sure.''
Stewart, who downplayed the lost time as "a little roadblock," has a standard one-year contract that top team officials went out of their way to describe as "non-guaranteed" when they inked the $2 million.
All standard one-year contracts come with the stipulation that clubs must pay only 1/6 the contract value in termination pay if such players are cut in mid-March (specifically March 16 this year) or ¼ termination pay if cut between that date and the opener.
``To be honest, that's not even a focus of mine,'' he said. ``Obviously, there's a business side of the game, but I came back here to be a part of the major league team, so I'm not even thinking about that right now.''
It might not take long to cross his mind of Luis Valbuena (home runs each of the past two games) keeps hitting while Stewart is out. Sveum loves Valbuena and said Friday Valbuena could win that job even if Stewart weren't hurt.
A few days earlier, Sveum said proclaimed third base was Stewart's ``job to win, not his job to lose.''
But Stewart doesn't seem to think that the potential for missing up to two weeks of games will hurt his chances to make the team.
``I would hope not,'' he said. ``I feel like I was brought back to be a part of the team and help this team, and I feel like I can do that. This is unfortunate, but I think if this was towards the end of camp or maybe in the middle it'd be a different story.''
Sveum plans to load Stewart up on at-bats over the final two weeks of March, assuming his legs, surgically repaired wrist and will can handle them.
Meanwhile, Valbuena said, "I'd be so happy to win that job," and when asked about Sveum's confidence in him, added:
``Dale feels like that because he knows I play 100 percent - more than 100 percent - every time he gives me an opportunity.''