CHICAGO -- With right-hander Kyuji Fujikawa off the disabled list, lefty James Russell having allowed only one run and closer Kevin Gregg perfect in save situations, the Cubs' bullpen is finally beginning to take shape.
"Right now it's lined up as good as it has been all season, no doubt about it," manager Dale Sveum said on Friday prior to the series opener against the Mets at Wrigley Field.
One important link has been missing, though -- right-handed reliever Shawn Camp, arguably the club's most important bullpen arm a season ago. Camp was a workhorse in 2012, tying with three others for the Major League lead in relief appearances, with 80 -- also a career high -- and tossing 77 2/3 innings, the fifth most among National League relievers.
But this year, especially at home, the 37-year-old hasn't been the same. He entered Friday with a 1-1 record and 7.31 ERA, with all 13 runs he's allowed given up at Wrigley Field.
Camp allowed two runs in Tuesday's loss to the Rockies but hasn't yet fallen out of favor with his manager.
"That's just one of those things where you keep sending the guy out there, and the slider comes back and the command comes back," Sveum said.
Sveum acknowledged that last season's workload is a likely cause for this season's struggles.
"That's the crapshoot of bullpens. You do that, and they're off a couple of months ... and the arm comes back," he said. "That's obviously a proven fact. But then there's plenty of guys who do it and have great years for you the next year. There's no rhyme or reason for that, but it's definitely a factor."
Garza, Cubs pleased with latest rehab start
CHICAGO -- Right-hander Matt Garza told the Des Moines Register on Thursday following his most recent rehab start that he's ready to return to the Cubs. Manager Dale Sveum said on Friday that he received "really good" reports on Garza's 75-pitch outing.
But it still hasn't been decided if Garza's next start will come with the Cubs. How he feels after Saturday's side session could be the determining factor.
"He did what we asked him to do, that's for sure," Sveum said. "We'll see how he feels, how his side goes, and then we'll go from there."
Garza, on the disabled list since Spring Training with a strained left lat, has made four Minor League rehab starts. His latest, with Triple-A Iowa on Thursday, was his best, as he allowed two hits and struck out six in six scoreless innings.
"Very efficient," Sveum said. "It was really good. Everything went according to plan, and he stepped up and got his six innings. We would have liked to send him back out there, maybe, but he did what he was supposed to do."
The Cubs were hoping Garza would throw 85 to 95 pitches but were happy with the effort. Garza apparently was, too, telling the Des Moines Register that he's ready to step back on a Major League mound.
"I don't need another start down here," Garza told the newspaper. "There's no reason for me to stay in the Minor Leagues."
One issue seemingly holding him back would be his durability, as the 75 pitches were the most he's thrown. Sveum, however, doesn't consider it an issue.
"That's probably the last thing we have to worry about with him," Sveum said. "It's not a big league game, it's not a big league atmosphere, but there will be more energy spent in a big league game, that's just the way it is. Like I said, we'll take a look at it today and tomorrow with his side and see where we are."
As for how the rotation will shake out following Garza's return, Sveum said the club has discussed it but hasn't projected anything. In fact, Sveum sees having six starting pitchers as a good problem.
"When you have that kind of depth and you're penciling in somebody like a Matt Garza, you're ahead of the game," he said. "We're fortunate to have that."
• Cubs leadoff batters entered Friday's series opener against the Mets batting .378 with two home runs and three walks to start a game.
• The Cubs entered Friday with 93 doubles through 40 games, putting them on pace to leg out 377 two-baggers. The franchise record is 340, set in 1931 and matched in 2007.
• Chicago Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton sang "Take Me Out to the Ball Game," on Friday.