MESA, Ariz. - Third baseman Ian Stewart's chances to make the team appear to be narrowing with every day his window of playing opportunity narrows because of a persistent quad injury.
Manager Dale Sveum said Sunday that the quad strain Stewart suffered Feb. 21 in an intrasquad game is still bothering him enough that his return to the lineup has been pushed back until possibly next week.
Stewart and prospect Josh Vitters have nearly identical injuries and are on a similar timeline, running together daily under supervision of trainers.
"They're still feeling stiffness when they're running at 80 percent," Sveum said. "So hopefully, maybe, this weekend. But it seems to be getting pushed back every day."
The club was originally targeting Friday for Stewart's return, which would give Stewart a small enough window of playing time that Sveum referred to it as a "cram session" of at-bats for making the club.
Sunday Sveum said, "It's getting more crammy."
Opening the season on the disabled list is not among the options the Cubs are considering as they decide whether to commit to paying Stewart's full $2 million contract by putting him on the opening roster or pay just $500,000 by releasing him before that.
Sveum-favorite Luis Valbuena is considered a strong defensive option to take over the position, as he did when Stewart was injured last year. And Valbuena is having an especially strong spring offensively.
OTHER INJURY NOTES
--Prospect Junior Lake was scratched from Sunday's lineup after showing up with a sore throwing shoulder. He's day to day.
--Right-hander Matt Garza was to have his recovering left lat evaluated today to determine if he's able to restart a throwing program in the next day or two. He's expected to miss the first month of the season.
--Shortstop Starlin Castro (hamstring) and utility man Brent Lillibridge (groin) both look ready to play, Sveum said, and are scheduled to return to the lineup Wednesday following Tuesday's scheduled off day.