SAN FRANCISCO -- Padres infielder David Eckstein could return to the lineup as early as next weekend, though it's more likely he'll be back in time for the Padres' next homestand that begins Aug. 24.

Eckstein, out since July 21 with a right calf strain, has returned to full baseball activities and says he's ready to get back.

"I went through a full pregame session [Saturday] and I'm getting my running in," Eckstein said before Sunday's series finale with the Giants. "I've been taking grounders and batting practice for a week."

Eckstein is scheduled to participate in baserunning drills on Monday in Chicago's Wrigley Field. If everything works out, his next step will be playing in a few Minor League games.

"He's going to go through a good workout on the field in Chicago," Padres manager Bud Black said. "He'll need three games to get back into game condition. He's the kind of guy, if he were out for just the 15 days, he could come right back. I think it's been a little longer this time."

Eckstein has a .278 batting average on the season, with a home run and 22 RBIs.

"If everything checks out I'll go play some games," Eckstein said.

Garland prepared to return to Chicago

SAN FRANCISCO -- Jon Garland has appeared in 122 games combined between U.S. Cellular Field and Wrigley Field over the course of his career, but when it comes to the Chicago Cubs, it's just another series.

"I love to visit the city," Garland said. "It's a beautiful city. But it's just another game."

A three-game series with the Cubs starting on Monday marks the Padres' only trip through Chicago this season, so Garland won't have much time to catch with up old friends and for hitting the town. He's scheduled to make his sixth appearance and fourth career start at Wrigley Field on Tuesday.

"In today's game there is so much information it doesn't matter," Garland said in response to a question about facing a team so infrequently. "You're not physically pitching against them, and it's not like a division opponent whom you see a lot more often. You go by reading reports and watching video. Really, there's too much information."

Garland has a career record of 47-44 within the Chicago city limits, 2-2 at Wrigley Field, where he has a 5.50 ERA.

Padres not focused on short-term results

SAN FRANCISCO -- No matter what happens on Sunday, the Padres will leave San Francisco as the first-place team in the National League West.

Losing or gaining ground on their rivals, though, is just not part of the equation.

"Obviously when you play a division rival every game is big," San Diego relief pitcher Tim Stauffer said. "But where we are is not part of the thinking process."

Padres starter Mat Latos said he just can't concern himself with gaining or losing ground.

"It's a marathon, not a sprint," he said. "We've been going back and forth all season. That's what I would expect from two good teams. It's something we don't worry about much."

The Padres and Giants meet seven more times after this series. The Giants visit San Diego for a four-game series Sept. 9-12 and the Padres return to AT&T Park for the final three games of the season.