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Another setback for Cubs’ Willis in comeback attempt

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013 11:17 a.m. CST

(MCT) — GLENDALE, Ariz. — Veteran left-hander Dontrelle Willis is in minor league camp with no realistic chance of making the Cubs, but he seemed happy to be around a major league clubhouse with the organization he grew up in more than a decade ago.

The Cubs brought Willis to Camelback Ranch on Monday in case they ran out of pitchers, and sure enough, Willis got a chance to pitch in the eighth inning of a tie game with the Dodgers.

Seven pitches later, Willis was yanked with shoulder tightness and charged with the loss in a 7-6 Dodgers victory.

The 31-year-old last pitched in the majors with the Reds in 2011 and has battled injuries for years. He announced his retirement last summer while playing in the Orioles system but decided to give it one more shot.

“A mild setback, I guess,” Willis said. “Hopefully it’s nothing serious and I don’t miss a lot of time. ... Probably just fatigue.

“It’s frustrating. I worked hard to get back and get into a groove, and this happens. I’ll overcome it. I’ve done it before. Just go back to the drawing board.”

Rough debut: Right-hander Carlos Villanueva failed to last an inning in his Cubs debut.

“It happens,” Villanueva said. “In a perfect world, it would’ve been six up, six down.”

Instead, Villanueva pitched to five batters, walking two and giving up a two-run single. Thanks in part to a 16-pitch at-bat by leadoff man Dee Gordon, Villanueva quickly reached his pitch limit in what was supposed to be a two-inning start and was removed for Blake Parker.

“Being a competitor, you don’t want to be out in the first inning,” Villanueva said. “But I understand. It’s time to build up, time to work on things. I’m satisfied — not with the results, but with how I feel.”

Garza watch: Manager Dale Sveum said Matt Garza should be on target to be ready for the opening week if he starts throwing again in the next few days.

Sveum said he probably won’t announce his opening-day starter until the third week of March, so Garza is still in the mix with Jeff Samardzija and Edwin Jackson.

But Sveum pointed out there’s a day off April 2, so the Cubs could bring back their opening-day starter April 6 in Atlanta on regular rest, holding Garza back until April 7 to give him an extra week to stretch out.

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