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

The Cubs’ Sunday starter is still TBD.

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Cubs right-hander Marcus Stroman has been on the IL for about a month with inflammation in his right shoulder.

Cubs right-hander Marcus Stroman has been on the IL for about a month with inflammation in his right shoulder.

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

Manager David Ross declined to announce the starter Sunday. But left-hander Drew Smyly, on a rehab schedule parallel to Stroman’s in recent weeks, appears to be on track to pitch in the series finale.

The Cubs will continue to monitor the workloads of Stroman (right shoulder inflammation) and Smyly (right oblique strain) when they return. Both threw about 50-55 pitches in their rehab starts, according to 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 didn’t travel with the team to Los Angeles, instead returning to Chicago to await the birth of his child. The Cubs had yet to put him on paternity leave. Hendricks (right shoulder strain) landed on the 15-day IL on Wednesday.

Trending 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 might last only 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 because of the pandemic.

Rehab assignments

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.

Madrigal went 1-for-3 with an RBI, and made the highlight reel on defense, fielding a grounder 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.

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

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Asked before Sunday’s series finale against the Marlins if Alzolay is his closer, Cubs manager Craig Counsell said, “I don’t think today he would be.”