Stewart, Vitters out 2-3 weeks with quad strains

MESA, Ariz. -- The Chicago Cubs will be without the services of third basemen Ian Stewart and Josh Vitters after both were diagnosed with mild strains of their left quad.

“It sounds like, at the earliest, they’ll be on the field in two weeks, but realistically three weeks,” manager Dale Sveum said before his team’s Cactus League opener on Saturday. “It’s unfortunate for them.”

It’s particularly bad for Stewart, who is coming off a wrist surgery that caused him to miss most of last season. He played in just 55 games, hitting .201. In the offseason, Stewart signed a one-year, $2-million contract, which is not guaranteed. The Cubs can cut him before the season while paying him a small termination fee.

Third base was his “job to win” Sveum said recently, and now the Cubs won’t have as much time to evaluate him.

“Three weeks from now basically puts you at March 14, which puts you about three weeks from Opening Day, so if he’s capable and the leg is fine … but it will be a cram session, that’s for sure,” Sveum said.

Stewart hurt his leg in an intra-squad game on Thursday and said it was sore going into the weekend. Luis Valbuena will start at third base on Saturday and probably be the starter if Stewart isn’t ready or is cut.

“Competition is what the game is meant to be,” Sveum said. “That’s the essence of spring training.”

The Cubs aren’t deep at the position. Prospect Junior Lake will get extra time there, as will Brent Lillibridge, so Stewart still has a good chance of earning his job back.

“We don’t have a whole lot of other third basemen -- they both just went down,” Sveum said laughingly.

Jesse Rogers covers the Cubs for ESPN 1000 and ESPNChicago.com