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Garza throws 3-plus scoreless innings

Chicago Cubs starter Matt Garza continues to make progress with his recovery from a strained lat muscle, inching closer to making his major league debut this season.

Garza pitched 3 1/3 scoreless innings Saturday, allowing three hits with two strikeouts and two walks for Double-A Tennessee against the Birmingham Barons, a White Sox affiliate. Garza was supposed to pitch into the fifth inning, but he reached the designated 66 pitches earlier than anticipated. Garza has not pitched a major league game since July 21.

"He felt great and everything, but not real efficient," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "Somehow, if not in the next outing, we have to get him to the fifth or sixth inning."

Garza will likely throw between 85 and 95 pitches in his next start for Triple-A Iowa. He could return to the Cubs as early as the May 21-23 series against the Pittsburgh Pirates, which means one of the current starters could lose their spot in the rotation.

"From a team standpoint, it's a good problem to have," Sveum said. "But for the individual that is going to have to go, and nobody deserves it because everyone is pitching is perfectly fine, it's not going to be the easiest thing to do."

Valbuena ready to go: Cubs third baseman Luis Valbuena jammed his right pinky finger sliding into third base in the fifth inning of Saturday's game against the Nationals, but X-rays were negative.

Cody Ransom replaced Valbeuna and had an RBI single in the sixth. Even though Valbuena said prior to Sunday’s series finale that he was available to play, Ransom remains in the lineup.

Sveum said Valbuena would be an option to pinch hit, but he did not want to play him at third base so soon after the injury.

"I think's it's going to be a little sore, but I think he'l be available," Sveum said. "Throwing might be a little bit of an issue. But I think he'll be fine."

Lineup changes: With left-hander Gio Gonzalez starting for the Nationals, Sveum made some changes to the lineup.

Starlin Castro resumes his duties as the leadoff hitter against lefties, replacing David DeJesus, who got the day off. Ryan Sweeney replaces DeJesus in centerfield.

Scott Hairston will take over for Nate Schierholtz in right field. Catcher Wellington Castro got the day off and was replaced by Dioner Navarro. Ransom remains in the lineup at third base.