Garza 'pushing hard' for early May return

ATLANTA -- Injured Chicago Cubs starter Matt Garza is confident he can make a return to the rotation next month after re-joining the team in Atlanta on Thursday night.

“I’m pushing for early May and pushing hard too,” Garza said Friday before the Cubs played the Braves.

Garza has been out since early in spring training with a lat injury on his left side, which he suffered throwing his first batting practice session to Cubs hitters. He missed the second half of last season due to elbow problems but he threw pain-free off a mound on Thursday in Arizona before flying to Atlanta.

“Off the bump (Thursday), feel really, really good,” he said. “A lot of positives. Kind of just itching to get back for the next one.”

The plan is for Garza to throw another 25 pitches off the mound on Sunday. He says the injured lat is fully healed and his work isn’t to build arm strength -- just to get ready.

“More about getting my pitches in,” Garza said. “My arm strength is there. Just getting my mechanics down.”

After several more bullpen sessions, where Garza will undoubtedly increase his pitch count, he’ll be sent to the minors on a rehab assignment before joining the Cubs rotation.