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Justin Steele ‘getting close’ to making his return with Cubs

Steele has been getting stretched out to be a starter with Triple-A Iowa and had an ERA of 0.89 in six games (four starts) in July.

AP Photo/Ron Schwane

WASHINGTON — The Cubs have pivoted to a youth movement, and with so many of their veterans gone, there will be opportunities for some lesser-known names to make an impact at the major-league level.

Left-hander Justin Steele is going to be one of the young players who will get a crack at some of those chances. Steele has been getting stretched out to be a starter again at Triple-A Iowa after pitching in the Cubs’ bullpen earlier this season.

He had an ERA of 0.89 in six games (four starts) in July and was up to five innings and 75 pitches Thursday in his last start.

“I would say he’s really close,’’ manager David Ross said before the Cubs’ 6-5 loss Sunday to the Nationals. I think [we’re] gonna see just where he slots in. But, yeah, I’ve had those conversations. I can’t tell you whether he’s gonna start with us or [Iowa] next, but he’s definitely getting close. . . . He’s definitely on track to get here sooner rather than later.”

Heuer will have big role in bullpen

Right-hander Codi Heuer’s world changed dramatically in the last 48 hours. He went from the White Sox, a World Series contender, to the Cubs, a rebuilding team.

Heuer was part of the deal that sent Craig Kimbrel to the Sox and wants to take advantage of his new opportunities on the North Side. He made his Cubs debut in their 6-3 victory Saturday against the Nationals, getting out of a bases-loaded, no-outs jam.

He threw another scoreless inning Sunday.

“I wouldn’t want it any other way — going into the fire with the bases loaded,” Heuer said Sunday. “Anytime I can help a guy get out of a jam and help the team win a game, it’s a good day.

“There’s gonna be a lot of high-leverage situations just like I’ve been doing in the past. I think the bullpen is gonna find a lot of their roles. So we’re gonna see how that goes here in the upcoming games.”

Heuer has elite stuff, and with the Cubs sorting out their bullpen, he’s a natural fit for high-leverage situations, including some save opportunities.

“I feel like he’s probably our most dominant right-handed pitcher down there vs. righties,” Ross said. “If we can slot him into the right spot at the back end, I don’t see why it’s not the ninth. But I’m not going to save him for just the closer role.”