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Cubs notebook: Epstein talks trade deadline, Fowler nears return

Theo Epstein talks to the media Friday at Wrigley Field. (AP Photo/David Banks)

Cubs president Theo Epstein has never believed there are “untouchables” at the trade deadline.

But as the Aug. 1 deadline approaches, Epstein said there are some pieces to his championship puzzle that he isn’t likely to part with.

“There are guys who we believe in so much and believe in as part of our core and our identity that it would be impracticable to envision a deal,” Epstein said Friday. “It’s almost impossible to envision a deal that would make sense with them. But if you start with untouchables, you limit yourself. You’re always willing to have a conversation.”

Epstein said he has been on the phone a lot the last few weeks looking to shore up a team that showed some vulnerabilities in losing 15 of 21 games heading into the All-Star break.

Although there has been plenty of discussion of what the Cubs need to do to enhance their roster — whether with starting pitching or another arm in the bullpen — Epstein is reluctant to pigeonhole the team’s needs.

He said as the Cubs continue to get healthy, how they look now and how they’ll look in September is bound to be different. Epstein said that consideration will help dictate what moves he’ll make in the coming weeks.

“The more talent you have, as long as you don’t distract from the chemistry of the group, is always important,” Epstein said.

Fowler nearing return

Starting center fielder and leadoff hitter Dexter Fowler will spend the weekend with the Cubs before heading off on another minor-league rehab assignment next week.

Fowler, who hasn’t played since June 19 because of a hamstring strain, felt good running Thursday. He should be ready to rejoin the Cubs by the end of next week.

Manager Joe Maddon said Friday that outfielder Jorge Soler also is nearing a rehab assignment as he continues to deal with a hamstring injury. Soler isn’t as close as Fowler and doesn’t have a target return date.

Comings and goings

Backup catcher David Ross was activated from the seven-day concussion disabled list, and reliever Clayton Richard was activated from the 15-day disabled list.

The Cubs also put reliever Trevor Cahill on the 15-day disabled list with patellar tendinitis in his right knee.

In other moves, the Cubs optioned infielder Munenori Kawasaki to Class AAA Iowa, and reliever Joel Peralta cleared waivers and became a free agent.

Meet the Mets

Maddon announced that Jon Lester, Jake Arietta and Kyle Hendricks will face the Mets in the three-game series Monday-Wednesday at Wrigley Field.

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