ATLANTA -- Matt Garza rejoined the Cubs on Friday, one day after his first bullpen session since mid-February, and said he was already penciling himself into the rotation for May.
"I'm pushing for early May and pushing hard, too," Garza said.
The right-hander is on the disabled list with a strained left lat, which he first felt during a live batting-practice session on Feb. 17 in Mesa, Ariz. He had not thrown off a mound from that date until Thursday when he threw 25 pitches in Mesa.
"The first throw was kind of like 'ah' and after that it was, 'Let's go,'" Garza said of Thursday's outing. "I felt strong and I felt good. About 18 of the 25 [pitches] were strikes. [It's progressing] slowly, but I'm coming back. Another [bullpen] on Sunday. I can't wait."
Garza feels the arm strength is there, and that he needs to work on his mechanics. Garza will stay with the Cubs while he continues his rehab.
"It made sense to stay there in 90-degree heat [in Arizona] than go to Pittsburgh and try to play catch in 30-degree weather," Garza said. "It was more logic than anything. Now, I'm fine. I want to get off the bump with these guys and just go."
Castro plays in consecutive game No. 200
ATLANTA -- Friday was Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro's 200th consecutive game played. He's got a long way to go to catch Cal Ripken Jr.'s streak, but Castro's 200 is the longest active streak in the National League.
"If 200 is hard, how can you think about 2,000?" Castro said.
"It's nice to have a guy, let alone your shortstop, who can go out there every day," manager Dale Sveum said. "Knock on wood, he's very durable. He doesn't ever have anything wrong or anything. He's just a guy who likes to play, which is really nice to have from one of your best players."
Past Cubs managers Lou Piniella and Mike Quade both gave Castro off-days when they felt the young shortstop needed a break. He doesn't want any more breathers.
"If my body lets me play, I'll keep playing," Castro said. "That's my goal for this year is 162 games. Every year. I don't want a day off. That's why I prepare. Sometimes, when you have a slump, you get a day off. Lou Piniella did it to me and Quade, and then I come back hard again."
Did he tell Sveum no days off?
"I don't have to tell him," Castro said. "He knows I like playing."
The Tigers' Prince Fielder has the longest active streak in the Major Leagues, having played in 346 consecutive games.
"We were talking the other day about what Ripken did," Sveum said of the Iron Man's 2,632 consecutive games played record. "Did he go through his whole career without any broken bones or broken fingers? I'm sure something happened. ... There's a lot of luck in that and, obviously, some grit involved, too."
Sveum can relate to injured Louisville star
ATLANTA -- Cubs manager Dale Sveum cringed when he saw the replay of Louisville guard Kevin Ware breaking his leg during the NCAA men's basketball tournament.
In 1988, Sveum's career changed after a freak collision with Brewers teammate Darryl Hamilton. Sveum was playing shortstop and chased a pop fly down the third-base line, crashing into Hamilton, who was playing left. Sveum broke his left leg, which had to be re-fractured a year later because it didn't heal properly.
Seeing Ware go down brought back lots of memories for Sveum.
"I felt horrible about it," Sveum said of Ware, who is in Atlanta with his Louisville teammates for the Final Four. "I went through the same thing. It was kind of a freak accident. His was even stranger to come down and do something like that in such a horrific way. It makes you nauseated, that's for sure. It was one of the more horrible injuries, if not the most horrible injury, we were able to see and witness. Hopefully, he can come back. I don't know if he can come back from something like that. That was eye opening to say the least."
Sveum recalled his injury immediately.
"It's a flashback, knowing exactly how much pain you're in when something like that happens," Sveum said. "You basically kind of go into shock. It's something you'll never forget. I flashback every time [Darwin] Barney or [Starlin] Castro go down this line for a popup.
"It's such a traumatic incident that you'll never forget it," Sveum said.
• Friday's game marked the start of a stretch of 19 in a row for the Cubs against teams that finished .500 or better last year. Thirteen of those games are against teams that reached the playoffs, beginning with the Braves.
It's going to be challenging.
"That was last year's playoff teams," Cubs pitcher Matt Garza said. "Things change."
• There were too many ballplayers on the field during the Braves' batting practice. The Cubs' relievers were doing their normal pregame routine, but they were in left field while the Braves were hitting. Atlanta general manager Frank Wren asked the players to get off the field, but they didn't.
"[Wren] came in and asked me a favor, if I could keep the guys off the field, because they were trying to do defensive work," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "Realistically, two teams can't be on the field at the same time, but we all know that at the end of [batting practice], everybody always goes and throws and everybody's work is done by then. The [batting practice] times got all goofed up. That's part of why that happened."
The Cubs' pitchers were amused that they were being chased off.
• Hall of Famer Ernie Banks will sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the seventh-inning stretch Monday at the Cubs' home opener. Another Cubs Hall of Famer, Fergie Jenkins, will sing on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, members of the 1963 Loyola men's basketball team, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary of its NCAA championship, will sing, and be followed on Thursday by Blackhawks Hall of Fame goalie Tony Esposito.
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.