Time limited for Stewart in spring recovery

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Ian Stewart was able to hit, take ground balls and jog on Tuesday, but Cubs manager Dale Sveum admitted there isn't much time for the third baseman to get ready for the start of the season.

"I'd be lying if I didn't say there's a big question," Sveum said when asked if Stewart had enough time to make the roster for the April 1 opener. "There just aren't that many at-bats. You have to be productive in those at-bats. [Luis] Valbuena is playing and doing a real good job."

Valbuena took over the third base job last year after Stewart needed to undergo surgery on his left wrist. This spring, Stewart doubled in his first at-bat in an intrasquad game Feb. 21, and pulled up because of a sore left quad. He has not played since, and the hope is that he will get into a Cactus League game in one week.

Last season, Stewart batted .201 in 55 games before he was shut down. The Cubs do need more production at third base, and would like Stewart to have a repeat of 2009 when he hit 25 home runs and drove in 70 runs.

"Hopefully it all comes together because by the time he gets on the field, you're looking at 20 to 30 maybe regular at-bats [this spring]," Sveum said. "We'll probably send him down to hit in a Minor League game and have him lead off every game."

If he's not ready, Valbuena would start at third. He batted .219 last year with the Cubs, but hit .306 this winter in Venezuela.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.