Cubs’ Marcus Stroman to return from IL, start Saturday vs. Dodgers

LOS ANGELES – Cubs right-hander Marcus Stroman is scheduled to return from the 15-day injured list to start against the Dodgers on Saturday, the team announced Friday.

Cubs manager David Ross declined to announce Sunday’s starter. But Cubs lefty Drew Smyly, on a rehab schedule parallel to Stroman’s in recent weeks, appears to be on track to pitch in the weekend series finale.

The Cubs will continue to monitor Stroman (inflammation in his right shoulder) and Smyly’s (right oblique strain) workloads when they return. Both threw about 50-55 pitches in their rehab starts, according to Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy.

“So, you’re not going to jump to something crazy,” Hottovy said. “But these guys were stretched out prior to their injuries, it wasn’t like it was building up from a crazy low number. So, right now we just have to continue to listen to how they’re feeling and how they’re progressing, and, obviously, make the best decision we can in those moments.”

Lefty Justin Steele and right-hander Kyle Hendricks were lined up to start Saturday and Sunday. But Steele did not travel with the team to L.A., instead returning to Chicago to await the birth of his child. The Cubs had yet to place him on paternity leave. And Hendricks (right shoulder strain) landed on the 15-day IL on Wednesday.

‘Starting to trend in the right direction’

Hottovy isn’t ruling out a return this year for right-hander Adbert Alzolay. A strained right shoulder has sidelined him since a few weeks before spring training. According to Hottovy, Alzolay has progressed to long toss and touch-and-feels – light side sessions that may only last 10 or 15 pitches.

“Whatever we can get this year – even if it’s for the last month of the season, he throws 35, 40 innings – that’s a bonus,” Hottovy said. “So, we’ve just got to keep building it the right way. We don’t want to push him just to get him back this year, but I think he’s starting to trend in the right direction.”

Whatever Alzolay’s workload proves to be this year will affect the Cubs’ plan for next season. Dramatic spikes in workload from one season to the next can come with injury risk. Veteran lefty Wade Miley, for example, suspects his injury-laden season has a lot to do with that kind of fluctuation over the past few years due to the pandemic.

Rehab assignments

Cubs second baseman Nick Madrigal (strained left groin) and reliever Daniel Norris (sprained left index finger) began their rehab assignments with Triple-A Iowa on Thursday in style.

Madrigal went 1-for-3 with an RBI, and he made the I-Cubs’ highlight reel on defense, fielding a ground ball up the middle and slinging a jump-throw to first base to get the out.

Norris allowed just one hit and pitched a scoreless inning.

Cubs first baseman Frank Schwindel (low back strain) joined them Friday to start his rehab assignment.

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