CINCINNATI — The Cubs might have lost more than the services of left-hander Cole Hamels for the next several weeks because of the strained left oblique he suffered Friday.
The injury also might have cost them an All-Star representative next week in Cleveland.
Hamels (6-3, 2.98 ERA) was the top All-Star hope for the Cubs’ rotation until suffering the injury, which landed him on the injured list Saturday, in the first inning.
A timeline for Hamels’ return is uncertain. He missed two months in 2017 because of a strained right oblique he said was much worse than this one. He has an MRI exam scheduled for Monday in Pittsburgh.
The Cubs already have two All-Star starters in catcher Willson Contreras and shortstop Javy Baez, and they might put another player on the team (Kris Bryant? Anthony Rizzo?) when the reserves are announced Sunday.
But don’t underestimate the sense of missed opportunity for Hamels, a 14-year veteran who was performing as well as he had since his last All-Star season in 2016.
‘‘It’s a big deal to all of us because it’s [about] goals,’’ said Hamels, a four-time All-Star. ‘‘Also, as you get older in this game, you want to enjoy some things that you might not have taken so seriously when you were earlier in your career. You take things for granted.
‘‘And pitchers are a little bit different, I think, because they get selected on necessity as opposed to popularity. So this could easily deter even the opportunity. So it is a tough thing.’’
Hamels was scheduled to pitch Wednesday in Pittsburgh. Because of the injury, the Cubs scrubbed their rotation schedule beyond Monday, when rookie right-hander Adbert Alzolay will pitch.
Right-hander Kyle Hendricks (shoulder inflammation) looked good in a bullpen session Saturday and, depending on how he fares overnight, might get the OK to skip a rehab start and go from the injured list back into the rotation in Pittsburgh.
If that were to happen Tuesday, it would allow Hendricks to pitch one more time — Sunday against the White Sox — before the All-Star break.
That scenario likely would push right-hander Yu Darvish to Wednesday, left-hander Jose Quintana to Thursday and left-hander Jon Lester to Saturday.
CarGone, plus bullpen reinforcements
The Cubs bumped their bullpen strength to nine arms with the additions of right-handers Rowan Wick and Dillon Maples from Class AAA Iowa. They needed relief depth after four days of heavy bullpen use, including seven innings Friday.
They made room for the relievers by putting Hamels on the IL and designating outfielder Carlos Gonzalez for assignment. Gonzalez, who was signed for the prorated major-league minimum after being released by the Indians a month ago, hit .175 with one home run and a .606 OPS in 49 plate appearances for the Cubs.
Break for Baez?
Baez, who still shows lingering signs of the bruised heel he suffered last month, is expected to get the rest day Sunday that manager Joe Maddon has been looking to give him for much of the last week.
Then again, will his game-changing grand slam in the eighth inning Saturday change the plan?
‘‘He keeps insisting he feels great,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘I’m sure he does. But I’ve just got to be proactive and get him off his feet.’’