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Garza slated to return on Tuesday

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CHICAGO -- Right-hander Matt Garza will return to the Cubs' rotation on Tuesday in Pittsburgh and make his first Major League start since last July.

"I'm excited and just happy that I don't have to rehab again," said Garza, who opened the season on the disabled list with a strained left lat. "This actually means something, and I can't wait. It's been 10 months in the making, so I'm excited to get back out there."

Garza won't be activated until before Tuesday's game, when a corresponding move will be announced. But the domino effect of Garza's return to the rotation is already known -- right-hander Carlos Villanueva will shift to the bullpen.

Garza made four rehab-assignment appearances, the last of which came on Thursday at Triple-A Iowa, when he allowed two hits and struck out six over six scoreless innings. Manager Dale Sveum said that outing was enough to show the Cubs that Garza was ready to return.

"We've slowed it up a little bit and he did everything -- and then his final one was as good as it could be," Sveum said. "It was just time to get him back."

Garza said he was confident his last rehab outing proved he was ready.

"I think when they told me, 'Go get six,' and I threw six, it was enough lobbying that I can actually argue," Garza said when asked if he had to persuade the Cubs to let him return. "I was excited, and I'm just ready to do my part."

Garza won't immediately be fully unleashed. Sveum said the right-hander will be held to 85-90 pitches.

As for Villanueva, it's back to the bullpen -- where he has spent most of his eight-year career. Outside of his last start on Tuesday -- allowing seven runs on 12 hits in five innings against Colorado -- he's been one of Chicago's best starters, going 1-3 with a 3.93 ERA in eight starts, five of which have been quality outings.

Right-hander Scott Feldman, who started Saturday against the Mets, will remain in the rotation after going 3-0 with a 1.57 ERA in his last four starts. Sveum said it wasn't a competition between the two, instead pointing to Villanueva's history in the 'pen.

"Obviously, he's built up to do a lot of things," said Sveum, adding that Villanueva will pitch in a variety of roles.

For Garza, Tuesday's start marks the end of a long journey. He left his start against the Cardinals last July 21 with a cramped right triceps, and one month later was placed on the 60-day disabled list with a stress reaction in his right elbow.

He then strained his lat during a live batting-practice session in Spring Training.

In all, it was the longest the 29-year-old said he's ever been away from the game. He's definitely ready to be back.

"The mental part was the tough part," Garza said. "It was one setback after another, and it was, 'Keep going, keep going, keep going.' I'm just happy I'm here at the end of it, and can't wait 'til Tuesday."

Cash Kruth is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @cashkruth. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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