PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Nomar Garciaparra is ready to help Chicago make a postseason push.

Garciaparra is set to be activated off the disabled list Friday and be in the Cubs’ lineup for the first time since he injured his groin in late April. Garciaparra will likely start Friday and Sunday against the New York Mets.

“I’m glad to be back, that’s for sure,” he said before Thursday’s game against Philadelphia. “I missed these guys. I missed being out there. It’s been a long road, but I’ve gotten myself back to where I think I can play.”

Garciaparra and pitchers Kerry Wood and Scott Williamson are expected to rejoin the Cubs this weekend, and the team hopes they can help Chicago make a dent in the NL wild-card race.

“I just hope my army is sharp,” Cubs manager Dusty Baker said.

Garciaparra, a five-time All-Star, went 3-for-13 during a four-game rehabilitation stint that ended Wednesday. He said he’d been running and cutting without pain and there was no discomfort at the plate or on the field.

When a line drive was hit toward him during one rehab game, Garciaparra instinctively leapt instead of remaining grounded, which he took as a positive sign.

“The fact that I’m not thinking about it definitely says a lot from both a physical and mental standpoint,” he said.

Garciaparra was batting .157 with no home runs and four RBIs in 14 games when he injured his left groin slipping out of the batters’ box at St. Louis in late April. He had surgery to repair a ruptured tendon.

Garciaparra is a career .320 hitter over 10 major league seasons. He spent nearly nine years with the Boston Red Sox, where he was American League rookie of the year in 1997, before being acquired by the Cubs last season.

In Garciaparra’s absence, Neifi Perez has played well for the Cubs, hitting .263 with eight home runs and 41 RBIs in 105 games. While Garciaparra was eager to return, Perez’s play will allow for a little more patience.

“We’re going to be smart,” Garciaparra said.

Wood (3-3, 4.67 ERA) will be used in relief when he comes back, maybe even as a closer when needed. Williamson, a right-handed reliever, had elbow ligament replacement surgery last October and signed a minor league deal with the Cubs in January.

Both are expected to bolster the bullpen down the stretch.

“I hope they throw me right in the fire,” Williamson said. “I pitch my best in those kinds of games.”

The Cubs had lost four of six and were five games behind Houston for the NL wild-card lead heading into Thursday’s game.

“The three of us just want to be back and be a part of it and hopefully help in any way possible,” Garciaparra said. “I think that’s our mentality.”

AP-ES-08-04-05 1434EDT

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