Whitenack making progress on comeback trail

MESA, Ariz. -- Robert Whitenack is happy to be back in games that matter.

Whitenack began the 2011 season 7-0 with a 1.93 ERA, then was sidelined with an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. Last season, he appeared in 15 games for Class A Daytona in the first part of his comeback.

On Thursday, Whitenack, 24, gave up one run on one hit and walked two over two innings in the Cubs' intrasquad game at HoHoKam Stadium. How's the arm feeling?

"It's better," said the right-hander, who was the Cubs' eighth-round Draft pick in 2009. "I have to adjust my release point. Now that my arm has full extension, I have a different release point. I have to adjust a little on the fly. But it's feeling really good -- I just have to take a step back and realize it's very early. It's hard not to let it go because it hasn't felt good in 18 months."

He retired the first three batters he faced on Thursday, then gave up a leadoff double to Welington Castillo, walked two, including Jorge Soler, and got Javier Baez to hit into a force at second, which allowed a run to score.

Whitenack wasn't hesitant to start throwing.

"I wouldn't say tentative, but I was kind of scared a little bit to let it go," he said. "When I'd come down here, I'd feel something in there, just a little ache, and I was a little apprehensive to throw. Now I don't feel it, and I'm just letting it rip, letting it go."

Besides regaining a feel for his pitches, Whitenack also is trying to gain weight. He checked in at 184 pounds when he arrived in camp. He's consuming an extra 1,300 calories a day, drinking five shakes a day.

"I'd like to be 200 [pounds]," Whitenack said. "Whatever I'm at, if I'm 185 [pounds], I want to be a strong 185. The weight to me doesn't matter -- you can be 200 pounds and not strong. Whatever weight I'm at, I want to be strong."