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Castro, Stewart close to rejoining lineup

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro, sidelined since Feb. 27 with a tight hamstring, is expected back in the lineup Wednesday for the first time since he was hurt, while third baseman Ian Stewart, who has been bothered by a sore left quad since Feb. 21, could play on Thursday.

Castro, Stewart, Brent Lillibridge and Josh Vitters were able to run the bases on Monday at HoHoKam Stadium to test their legs. Lillibridge has been out since Feb. 27 with a strained groin, while Vitters also injured his left quad on Feb. 21.

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"I think there's plenty of time now," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said Monday about Stewart. "We were a little bit worried that it would be next week but everything's gotten a little bit quicker."

Stewart, who has one at-bat, and that was in an intrasquad game, said Sunday he feels he's the starting third baseman despite missing so much time.

"He came in knowing it was a job he was going to have to just play well and produce," Sveum said. "It's still 16, 17 possible games left starting Thursday. You're looking at hopefully cramming 30 at-bats into that and some Minor League at-bats, too."

The Cubs also got good news on pitcher Matt Garza, who has been sidelined since Feb. 17 with a strained left lat. He played catch on Monday, making 25 tosses from about 45 feet.

Garza, who was not expected in the rotation for the first month, will rest Tuesday then resume throwing on Wednesday.

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.

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