Matt Garza on pace for mid-May return

CHICAGO – Barring any hiccups in the rehab process, Chicago Cubs starter Matt Garza is likely to return to the team in early to mid-May, according to Cubs manager Dale Sveum.

“He has been throwing on flat ground and long toss,” Sveum said. “Everything has been going well, so a couple of bullpens and he will go out and pitch a couple innings.”

During the winter, Garza was making a nice comeback from elbow soreness that had ended his 2012 season in late July. But on Feb. 17 while throwing his second bullpen session of the spring, Garza strained a muscle on his left side. After an aborted return he was shut down until mid-March.

The team has not decided where Garza’s first minor league outing will be.

“It will depend on the weather,” Sveum said. “He has to get built up, basically his spring training is starting now. You are talking about four weeks from now (to return).”

This is the last season Garza, 29, is under contract to the Cubs. He can declare free-agent status in November.