Nico Hoerner heads to Triple-A Iowa to begin rehab assignment

Hoerner has been on the injured list since May 26 after suffering a left hamstring strain.

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LOS ANGELES — The Cubs have missed Nico Hoerner’s energy in their lineup since he suffered a left-hamstring strain, but they are close to getting their spark plug back after his monthlong absence.

Hoerner will begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Iowa on Sunday, putting him on a pace to return soon. He joins right-handers Trevor Williams and Dillon Maples and left-hander Justin Steele, who all began their rehab assignments Friday.

Hoerner has a .338/.405/.432 slash line in 21 games.

“It’s been moving along nicely for him the last couple of days,” manager David Ross said before the game. “All these guys, Trevor, Steele, [David] Bote’s not far behind. I think he’ll be any day now. Guys are starting to kind of turn that corner right here before the All-Star break.

“So it’d be nice to see these guys get some games under their belt, get them healthy, get them back in the lineup and then still have some days off to recover with the All-Star break coming up. So yeah, it’s kind of a kind of good timing. We’ve definitely missed a lot of those guys.”

Duffy (back) hopeful setback is in past

Infielder Matt Duffy was a big part of the Cubs’ early season success on offense, but a balky back has kept him out for longer than expected. Duffy seemed to be ready to make a return several weeks ago but after pushing himself, a setback during his rehab has kept him sidelined.

“I was just trying to rush,” Duffy said Saturday. “Probably not being honest with myself about how I was feeling.”

Duffy says he officially has been diagnosed with a bulging disc in his lower back. While the team is happy with the progress he has made, the next step is ensuring that he can recover after going through baseball activities.

The infielder is hopeful that by the All-Star break he has a more definitive timeline on a rehab assignment and a possible return. How his back responds to swinging a bat will be another important step.

“This next week is going to be big, because we’re starting to add in baseball -activity now after throwing yesterday for the first time [since the setback],” Duffy said. “I’ve been swinging inside dry swings, after doing medicine-ball tosses and stuff, and that’s all gone really well. So it just depends on really this initial [addition] of activities.”

Higgins opts for Tommy John surgery

The Cubs have struggled with their catching depth due to injury and it took another big blow when PJ Higgins was found to need season-ending Tommy John surgery. Higgins went on the injured list June 11 with a right forearm strain.

After further testing, it was discovered that he had a right flexor strain and partially torn UCL. He received a second opinion and elected to get surgery, which will be done in the coming weeks.

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