SAN DIEGO — The left side of the Cubs’ infield might start to look a little closer to normal Tuesday if third baseman Kris Bryant is cleared to return to the lineup two days after receiving a cortisone shot in his ailing right knee.
‘‘Today I woke up, and it definitely is helping,’’ Bryant, who originally hurt the knee on a slide in late June, said Monday. ‘‘I feel a lot better.’’
Bryant missed two of the four games in Milwaukee before consulting with the medical staff and having the shot during the game Sunday against the Brewers.
Bryant, the 2016 National League MVP, wouldn’t blame a recent slump on the knee but acknowledged that the recurring issue worsened to the point that ‘‘the last month, it’s been pretty constant.’’
His return can’t come too soon for a lineup that lost both its big-league shortstops in the last three days. Javy Baez is out for the regular season after being diagnosed with a fractured left thumb, and Addison Russell is in the concussion protocol after being hit in the head with a pitch Sunday.
Baez was examined Monday by a hand specialist, who confirmed the fracture and reported the surrounding ligaments appeared healthy. He is expected to rehab the injury in hopes of returning sometime in October if the Cubs made the playoffs.
‘‘I think we did the right thing in terms of getting a shot and making sure that I’m ready to go for the rest of the year,’’ Bryant said. ‘‘I want to be out there 100 percent, and if I’m out there at whatever percent — 67 percent — that’s a complete disservice to everyone here and our fans.’’
It wasn’t exactly the 1927 Yankees on the other side of the field.
But when right-hander Kyle Hendricks survived a line drive off his shin in the fifth inning, pitched two outs deep into the sixth and allowed only one earned run against the Padres, he came up big in another big game for the Cubs.
And, not insignificantly, on the road, where he lowered his ERA to 4.94 to go with a major-league-best 1.77 ERA at home.
It was the second strong performance in the last three road starts for Hendricks, who might be the Cubs’ best option for a Game 1 playoff start.
When the Cubs flip-flopped Hendricks and left-hander Jon Lester the last two games to get Cardinals killer Hendricks into a series against them next week at home, it also lined him up for a playoff opener — assuming the team keeps the rotation as is and makes the postseason.
Promising right-handed pitching prospect Adbert Alzolay, who made his big-league debut in June, was optioned back to the minors. The Cubs chose to shut him down at 81 2/3 combined major- and minor-league innings this season after he pitched only 39 2/3 innings because of injuries last season.
They also recalled right-hander James Norwood from Class AAA Iowa to rejoin the bullpen, which now stands at 13 pitchers (with closer Craig Kimbrel on the injured list for at least the next two days).
The Cubs made room on the 40-man roster for shortstop Nico Hoerner by designating left-hander Randy Rosario for assignment.