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Ian Stewart getting closer to returning

MESA, Ariz. – Chicago Cubs third baseman Ian Stewart believes he’s just days away from returning to the lineup after sitting out with a left quad injury since the middle of last month.

“Today is the best I’ve felt in a while,” Stewart said Friday afternoon. “Very encouraging today. In most of the exercises I’ve done I haven’t felt that tightness or soreness at all. Definitely a good sign. Hopefully just a few more days.”

Stewart has been hitting in the batting cage for “five or six days” but recently added fielding and throwing to his rehab.

“There’s only three more weeks left in camp,” he said. “Looking forward to getting back and getting going again.”

Stewart said he hoped to be playing in a Cactus League game by the middle of next week. He missed all but 55 games last season after undergoing wrist surgery. The one-year contract he signed this past offseason for $2 million isn’t guaranteed, which means the Cubs could cut him for a small termination fee instead of paying him his full salary. He knows he has to prove he can be productive -- and healthy.

“I still feel like there is time to do that,” Stewart said. “I think that’s why we’ve taken a conservative approach to this just knowing camp is longer. We’ll have more time to get ready for the season.”

Stewart hurt his quad running out a hit during an intrasquad scrimmage early in spring training.