MESA, Ariz. -- Neither Ian Stewart or Josh Vitters was expected to be ready until the weekend as both Cubs third basemen try to come back from sore left quads.
Stewart and Vitters have not played since an intrasquad game Feb. 21. Stewart hit a double in his only at-bat, then had to leave the game with soreness in his quad. He was projected to return by mid week but now that's been pushed back.
"Now it's looking to the weekend," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said Sunday about the pair. "They're still feeling it -- both he and Vitters are the same thing. They're still feeling stiffness when they're jogging at 80 percent or running at 80 percent. Hopefully, maybe this weekend. Now it seems to be getting pushed back every day."
Sveum had mentioned that Stewart would have to undergo a cram session to get ready in time for the regular season.
"It's getting more 'crammy,'" Sveum said.
Stewart said the last test is running, and that the athletic trainers have yet to give him the go-ahead to run the bases.
"Dale talked about cramming to get ready for the season and that's understandable because the goal is to be on the team and be there Opening Day," Stewart said. "But I think the ultimate goal is to be healthy for as much of the season as I can be, and whether that's being there Opening Day playing and not being 100 percent and just trying to do it, or taking our time a little bit to make sure I'm 100 percent healthy so I can be there for the long haul and not risk re-injuring it."
Stewart took batting practice on the field, and was making solid contact, hitting a few home runs. What complicates matters is his contract. He signed a $2 million, non-guaranteed deal with the Cubs.
"That's really the last thing I worry about," Stewart said. "I'm just trying to get myself healthy. I know I can help this team out. I have all the confidence in the world with Theo [Epstein, president of baseball operations] and the guys that brought me back to be a part of the team, whether that's Opening Day or not or if I need a little extra time to get ready for the season, then so be it. I'm really not concerned or losing sleep over that."
If Stewart isn't ready, Luis Valbuena would start at third. Stewart feels it's his job.
"Definitely," Stewart said. "I don't think there's any other way to look at it. I'm the third baseman here until they get rid of me."
There's better news about shortstop Starlin Castro and utility man Brent Lillibridge. Both of them should be back on Wednesday. Castro has been sidelined since Feb. 27 with tightness in his left hamstring, while Lillibridge was injured that day, suffering a strained groin.
On Sunday, the Cubs medical staff was to re-evaluate pitcher Matt Garza and see if he could begin a throwing program. He's been out since Feb. 17 with a strained left lat.
Add Junior Lake to the injury list. He was scratched from Sunday's game because of shoulder soreness, which Sveum called a "stiff trapeze." He meant trapezius.
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.