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Steve Cishek’s return signals Cubs’ bullpen is at full strength

As expected, Cishek was activated from the injured list before the game Tuesday against the Giants.

The Cubs activated workhorse reliever Steve Cishek from the 10-day injured list.
AP Photos

With the return Tuesday of Steve Cishek (inflammation in left hip), the Cubs’ bullpen is pretty much healthy. Not everybody is entirely up to speed, but at least the pieces are back for the final stretch of the season.

‘‘I have confidence in [all of them],’’ manager Joe Maddon said. ‘‘This is a really good bullpen. I know it’s been maligned. I know the numbers. We’ve missed some saves, whatever. But I like the group, and I think our best pitching baseball is ahead of us. I think our best baseball is ahead of us in this six-week window [or] whatever it’s going to be.’’

The Cubs recently have gotten Craig Kimbrel, Brandon Kintzler and Pedro Strop back from the injured list. They might not be in midseason form, but there’s still time for them to get there.

‘‘I think that the benefit will be we get everybody right,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘I think they’re trending in that direction, and then you can start spreading out the work a little bit and not rely on one guy too often.’’

One guy the Cubs have relied on plenty is Cishek, who entered play Tuesday with 54 appearances. He acknowledged his brief time off might be a silver lining and was relishing the return to health of the bullpen.

‘‘I feel like we’re back to 100 percent now,’’ Cishek said. ‘‘Obviously, a couple of us have to get a couple of more outings under our belt before we’re fully there, but just to have everyone not on the IL and together out there again feels good.’’

The Iowa-Chicago connection

Infielder David Bote became the latest recognizable Cubs player to head to the minors after he was optioned Monday to Class AAA Iowa. The reason for Bote’s demotion was similar to center fielder Albert Almora Jr.’s: He needs to get at-bats instead of sitting and watching in the majors.

‘‘It’s difficult for them to think about or have to go through this moment right now, but it’s a finite time,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘The roster’s expanding soon, so it’s a different method mentally, and it’s going to benefit everybody. Every one of them is going to benefit from this, so it’s exciting. The depth keeps getting deeper.’’

Iowa’s lineup Tuesday featured Almora and infielder Daniel Descalso, who’s there on a rehab assignment.

Castellanos goes philosophical

Outfielder Nicholas Castellanos got philosophical before the game against the Giants. When asked why he fist-bumps Maddon before every game and says, ‘‘Happy Opening Day,’’ Castellanos turned things around.

‘‘Why is today not Opening Day?’’ he mused.

Well, Opening Day was March 28, when the Cubs beat the Rangers 12-4. And the Cubs entered play Tuesday with a 66-58 record.

‘‘Well, that’s only if you believe your record,’’ said Castellanos, who homered in the first inning. ‘‘It’s kind of the mentality of, ‘If what has happened is a memory and what’s going to happen is a thought, you’re taking yourself out of right now.’ So, in that case, every day is Opening Day.’’

Zobrist update

Utility player Ben Zobrist, who has been on personal leave since May 7, will play Thursday for Class AA Tennessee before returning Friday and Saturday to Iowa.

‘‘He’s being sent down?’’ Maddon joked when Zobrist’s next step was announced.