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Fowler return from DL ruled out for weekend but not All-Star Game

Dexter Fowler

Cubs center fielder Dexter Fowler, whose strained hamstring might be the Cubs’ most costly injury so far this season, started a brief minor-league rehab assignment Friday with Class A South Bend.

Fowler is to DH Friday, then start in the outfield Saturday, after which he’ll be re-evaluated.

The Cubs have ruled out a return from the disabled list during this weekend’s series against the Pirates. But they say they have not ruled out activating him in time for him to start in the All-Star game Tuesday in San Diego if the medical staff determines he’s healthy enough.

Fowler, 30, was selected for his first career All-Star game, one of seven Cubs to make the National League team.

“He just has to be honest with us,” manager Joe Maddon said. “If he’s feeling really well, I have no problem with it. Just because the All-Star week occurs next week doesn’t mean we don’t want to get him out on rehab, and if he can do that successfully, take a Sunday off, go out and play a couple innings on Tuesday, feel good again, leading into Friday, then all of a sudden you’re in good shape again.”

The Cubs are 6-12 since their leadoff hitter went on the DL.

Fowler could be activated after Sunday’s game to make him eligible for Tuesday.

“We’ll see,” said Fowler, who acknowledged he doesn’t expect to be 100 percent “for a while” even after returning. “I’m getting pretty close. I’m definitely getting better. Could use that as an extra rehab game.”

The Cubs open the second half July 15 at home against Texas.

“Our primary objective is to make sure that he’s well, and ready to play for the rest of the season and take us to the promised land,” Maddon said. “But the opportunity to play in an All-Star Game for a guy like him is pretty grand. So you don’t want to get in the way of that if in fact he can.”