Chicago Cubs

Baker eyeing Opening Day

MESA, Ariz. – Cubs starting pitcher Scott Baker is optimistic that come Opening Day, he will be completely healthy and part of the rotation.

Manager Dale Sveum cautioned against expecting Baker, who is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, to be ready to go April 1. The Cubs plan to be careful with Baker’s workload early in spring training.

“He’s going to be a little more babied,” Sveum said. “His effort level is going to pick up as spring goes along.”

Baker threw 40 pitches at about 70 percent during Tuesday’s bullpen session at Fitch Park. The Cubs will give Baker a day off here and there based on how he feels. For the most part, however, he will stay on the same track as other Cubs pitchers.

“We’re not going to put a timetable on it,” Sveum said of Baker’s return. “We’re going to ease him on into things and see how things work.”

Baker has a strict protocol to follow as he rehabs from Tommy John surgery, but so far the right-hander has not experienced any setbacks. Sometimes that protocol is difficult to follow, particularly on days when Baker believes he can do more than allowed. But given the success of pitchers after undergoing the Tommy John surgery, Baker trusts the process.

Ideally, Baker said he will be ready for Opening Day.

“This whole offseason, the entire rehab process, was to get ready to open the season,” Baker said. “As of right now, that’s the plan. Obviously, I’m Cubs property and their best interest is my best interest. We’re all on the same page, it’s just a matter of allowing them to do what they think is best for me and I’m OK with that.”

Schierholtz eager to prove himself: President of baseball operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer repeatedly have stated they expect to utilize platoons in the outfield.

Despite having a couple offers from other teams, outfielder Nate Schierholtz opted to sign with the Cubs in the offseason. Playing in the playoffs is a priority for Schierholtz, and he sees an opportunity to do that with the Cubs, a team he said he believes is trending upward.

“My goal is to show everyone what I can do and stay healthy,” Schierholtz said. “I know that if I have an opportunity to play a little bit more, I can be productive. In the past, I feel like I haven’t quite gotten the opportunity to show that and I’ve gotten hurt a few times.”

Jackson blending in: Playing on his eighth team in 11 years has made pitcher Edwin Jackson adept at getting to know new teammates.

The transition has been just as seamless with the Cubs. Jackson has earned the label of being the Cubs’ biggest free-agent signing since Epstein and Hoyer joined the organization. But he shook off the notion that he has additional pressure as a marquee signing.

“I don’t feel like I have to go out and try to overdo it,” Jackson said. “They brought me here for a reason. As far as I’m concerned, everyone is working on bettering themselves and that’s all I plan on doing.”

• Meghan Montemurro covers the White Sox and Cubs for Shaw Media. Write to her at Follow her on Twitter: @M_Montemurro.

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