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Samardzija expects Garza to be in mix for opener

MESA, Ariz. -- Matt Garza may be sidelined with a strained left lat, but that doesn't mean he's not in the mix to be the Cubs' Opening Day starter.

"I know how Garza is, I know he's a competitor," Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija said Tuesday. "I know how big of a year he wants to have. To sit and count Garza out wouldn't be the smartest thing to do. I want that competition. I want me and Garza and Edwin [Jackson] to go out and compete for that spot. It's only going to make us better and build us as a core of the rotation."

Garza has been shut down pitching-wise since he came out of Sunday's live batting practice session after 20 pitches with a strained left lat -- which an MRI revealed later. On Tuesday, he was working out on the eliptical machine. There's no timetable for when he'll resume baseball activities.

As for Samardzija, he was happy to dodge a possible injury on Monday when he danced out of the way of Darwin Barney's comebacker during the live BP session.

"He sits on my cutter," Samardzija said of Barney. "He's not going to get another one."

Samardzija is on the same schedule he was one year ago and feels strong. The only change has been the absence of his training partner, pitcher Ryan Dempster, now with the Red Sox. The two would run up Camelback Mountain as part of their program.

"I've been up there a few times this year," Samardzija said. "I guess [Anthony] Rizzo went and ran it [Monday] so he's probably hurting today. Of all the things that have changed for me, that's been the big thing. For three years, me and Demp have been here in the offseason working out together.

"When you work out with someone who has a strong work ethic, it's easier to work out," he said. "It's easier to wake up early, it's easier to go climb Camelback, it's easier to do things like that. I've really had to learn how to push myself this offseason and do it alone, which is tough. That was great when Demp was here. You get to learn those things and learn how to work and learn when to work, too."

Couldn't Samardzija get anyone to train with him in Arizona?

"Nobody was down here in the offseason," Samardzija said. "I was talking to my dog most of the offseason. My social skills took a hit."