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Soler makes sudden impact upon return to Cubs lineup

Jorge Soler celebrates after his three-run homer in Friday's first inning against the A's.

OAKLAND, Calif. – Despite little indication at Class AA Tennessee to suggest Jorge Soler was ready to produce in the big-league lineup, the Cubs activated the outfielder from the disabled list Friday and put him in the starting lineup as the designated hitter against the Athletics.

The result: Soler hammer-stroked the third big-league pitch he’s seen in two months off the concrete steps behind the left field wall so hard the ball bounced back into left field.

The three-run shot capped a four-run first for the Cubs and set the tone in a 7-2 victory in the opener of a three-game series in Oakland.

Manager Joe Maddon said before the game he believed Soler might be more focused and motivated than he was during his minor-league rehab assignment.

“I’ve seen that with different guys,” Maddon said. “I’m not saying it’s right or wrong. I just think it happens. I think it’s a mind kind of game.”

Soler, who was an impact hitter for the Cubs during the postseason last fall, was just 6-for-37 (.162) without an extra-base hit in 11 rehab games, striking out 16 times.

“Obviously, if we get him going right now, the middle of that batting order gets thicker,” Maddon said.

Soler was on the DL for two months because of a hamstring injury. Making the move now for the interleague road series allows him to transition into the lineup without needing to play in the field until at least Tuesday.

Say it ain’t Joe

The Cubs parted ways with six-time All-Star closer Joe Nathan after just three scoreless appearances, designating him for assignment to make room for Soler.

“He just needed more time,” said Maddon of the right-hander who had returned from a second Tommy John surgery. “I do believe he’s on the right path. I hope he gets another opportunity.

“But we just have so many folks here to get involved, it was the only way we could possibly do it.”

Tommy La Stillness

Infielder Tommy La Stella still hasn’t played a game for AAA Iowa since he was optioned to the minors July 29 to make room for Chris Coghlan’s return from the DL. And it’s not clear when, or even if, he will.

La Stella, who was said to not take the demotion well, has been granted extra personal time by the club to report. Maddon said he’s been working out and taking batting practice.

“He’s not ready to play [at AAA] yet,” said Maddon, who acknowledged the roster-numbers element to demoting La Stella, who was batting .295 with an .846 OPS. “We’re trying to figure out how to get him back up here. It’s not clear-cut yet.”

What seems certain is that by sitting out games he runs the risk of putting young players such as Jeimer Candelario or Albert Almora Jr. in line for a promotion ahead of him if the club has a sudden need.

Cahill on tap

Barring a setback or change in plans, right-hander Trevor Cahill is expected to start one of the games of the Cubs’ Aug. 16 doubleheader against the Brewers at Wrigley Field.

Cahill, who’s been on the DL with a knee injury most of the last month, has made four starts during a rehab assignment with Class AAA Iowa.

The former All-Star starter had pitched exclusively out of the bullpen (33 games) until the injury.