03/08/2013 6:34 PM ET
Baker and Garza making progress
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
MESA, Ariz. -- Scott Baker's latest test of his right arm may have been a simulated game on a back field at HoHoKam Park, but he was dressed in his full home uniform. He's trying to make it feel as much of a real game as possible.
"We had a couple young guys swinging, and I appreciate the guys swinging the bat and giving me some feedback," said Baker, who is coming back from Tommy John surgery last April. "I'm ready for the next step."
Next up will be a Minor League game Tuesday at Fitch Park, and if all goes well, Baker's next step would be a Cactus League game.
"He's feeling good today and everything's going really well," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "Barring no setbacks, he's perfectly right on schedule that we planned out from the beginning."
The radar guns showed Baker hitting about 89 mph during his second inning of a two-inning workout Thursday.
"I'm starting to feel more comfortable with my mechanics, which allows me to put forth more effort," Baker said. "Now that I feel like I'm doing that, the only way to throw harder and to gain that arm strength is to pitch. I feel like that's the point I'm at, is the day after is an important day, and today, I feel great. Now that I can get back on a normal five-day rotation is even more of a benefit for me."
He had been throwing every third day to build up his arm. Now he's back on a normal starting pitcher's routine.
"I'm excited," Baker said about his progress. "I didn't get to see the velocity readings yesterday, but I was happy with what they were telling me. Of course, we're talking about a simulated game on the back field, so there's not as much adrenaline there, obviously, as in a game. At the same time, that's something you have to take into consideration. You have to be cautious and mindful of that intensity."
Matt Garza, sidelined with a strained lat, also is improving, and may play catch Sunday or Monday, depending on how he feels.
The Cubs have enough depth with their starting pitching to give Baker and Garza time to heal completely. Once the two come back, they'll be in even better shape. Neither was expected in the first month of the regular season.
"If he comes back like the Baker we saw in Minnesota before he got hurt and Garza comes back about the same time, you're looking at a pretty good starting pitching staff at that point, if everyone is pitching up to their capabilities," Sveum said.
Their return would mean pitchers like Carlos Villanueva would switch from the rotation to the bullpen, but that will only help out the relievers.
"It solidifies the whole staff," Sveum said.
Marmol not worried about trade rumors
MESA, Ariz. -- Carlos Marmol doesn't pay attention to the trade rumors that seem to include the Cubs' closer every other day.
Marmol was mentioned recently as possibly drawing interest from the Tigers, who are looking for a closer. He has given Cubs management a list of five teams he would approve a deal to, but said he has not been approached about it.
"I don't worry about that," Marmol said Friday. "I just keep working here."
The rumors may continue all spring.
"I can't make that decision," Marmol said. "The boss guy makes the decision. I can't worry about that. The only thing I have to worry about is being ready every time they give me the ball."
Does Marmol think he'll be traded this year?
"I don't believe anything," the right-hander said. "I come here, work out and whatever decision they make here, I don't have anything to do with it."
What's been encouraging is that he is ahead of last season, as far as Cubs manager Dale Sveum is concerned.
"Last spring, we were still in that fistfight trying to get him to throw that fastball more, to get something out of Spring Training," Sveum said.
On Thursday, Marmol failed to finish one inning because he reached his pitch count for the day.
"That's all right," he said about his outing, in which he walked two against the White Sox. "I felt very good. I liked the way I threw the ball yesterday. The ball was coming out of my hand good, my body feels great, everything's good.
"I don't worry about walks, especially here," he said. "I'm trying to work on my pitches."
Italy's Classic wins benefit Rizzo's foundation
MESA, Ariz. -- Italy's win in the World Baseball Classic benefited Anthony Rizzo's foundation.
At least five Cubs players pledged $500 each to Rizzo's foundation if Italy won at least one game in the World Baseball Classic. Italy, the underdog in Pool D, is now 2-0 after a 14-4, eight-inning win Friday over Canada.
Rizzo went 0-for-3 on Friday, but drove in a run in the first inning on a groundout. Italy scored five runs in the bottom of the eighth, and the game was called because of mercy rule. Next up will be a meeting Saturday night against Team USA on MLB Network and ESPN Deportes at 8 p.m. CT.
If Italy advances to the second round, Rizzo may miss another week with the Cubs.
"If we lose him, he's still playing anyways," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said Friday. "It's the same as if he'd be playing here."
Rizzo delivered a go-ahead two-run double in the ninth inning of Thursday's 6-5 win over Mexico.
"You don't get to have that feeling he got yesterday, the whole team, to be that big of an underdog and to win a game like that," Sveum said. "He said his second baseman said, 'Man, I'm going to have a heart attack out here.'"
• The Cubs trimmed their spring camp roster to 59 on Friday. Outfielder Matt Szczur was optioned to Double-A Tennessee, and right-handed pitcher Dayan Diaz and catcher Michael Brenly, both non-roster invitees, were assigned to Minor League camp.
• Brenly, the son of former big league manager and current D-backs broadcaster Bob Brenly, is still alive in the Cubs bunting tournament, which will resume Saturday.
The Elite Eight matches are scheduled for Saturday, but strength coach Tim Buss may have to forfeit. Buss needed surgery Wednesday to remove his appendix. He was to face pitcher Hisanori Takahashi in the Sweet 16 match.
The other Elite Eight matches pit defending champion David DeJesus against Logan Watkins, Brenly against Edwin Maysonet, Edwin Jackson against the winner of the Takahashi/Buss match and Blake Parker against video staffer Nate Halm.
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.