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Only certainty for Cubs' Baker is another start

CINCINNATI – Scott Baker wasn’t necessarily going to get a start this month after joining the Cubs following a rehab assignment. Now, after Sunday’s strong Cubs debut, the right-hander “definitely” will get another start in the next week, Cubs manager Dale Sveum said Monday.

But whether the team’s $5.5-million investment from last fall pays off with more than two starts now that Baker appears to be all the way back from Tommy John surgery is anything but definite.

“Those are things that are obviously up to Jed and Theo,” Sveum said of GM Jed Hoyer and team president Theo Epstein. “But we’ll evaluate some more. Things went well. And when we get to the winter, starting pitching’s always a priority, and depth and everything else. But it’s still a wait-and-see-what-happens.”

Club officials have said they plan to look at Baker, a former 15-game winner with the Minnesota Twins, as a possible extension candidate this winter. But they also expected him to return from his injury earlier than September.

And it’s unclear at this point how they stack up their 2014 rotation – with Jeff Samardzija, Edwin Jackson and Travis Wood already locked in, barring a trade.

And the overall depth has been boosted with the July trades that landed Jake Arrieta and Justin Grimm, and the strong performance of left-hander Chris Rusin since taking over for the traded Matt Garza,

“Right now, beggars can’t be choosers,” Baker said of his future – including short-term – after Sunday’s efficient five innings of scoreless work against Milwaukee. “I’m very thankful they gave me the opportunity to start. They left it up to me if I wanted to continue this process.

“Physically, I’ve been feeling a little stronger each time out.”

Sveum said he expects to finalize Baker’s next start date Tuesday. Whether there would be time and opportunity to slot him into another start beyond that is unclear with less than three weeks remaining this season.