Cubs recall outfielder Nelson Velazquez, option pitcher Javier Assad to Triple-A Iowa

Velazquez had hit three home runs in eight games at Iowa to start the season.

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The Cubs recalled Nelson Velázquez from Triple-A Iowa on Monday.

The Cubs recalled Nelson Velázquez from Triple-A Iowa on Monday.

Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

The day after outfielder Nelson Velazquez hit his third home run of the Triple-A season, he arrived in the Cubs’ clubhouse in Chicago, joining the team before its series opener Monday against the Mariners.

The Cubs recalled Velazquez and, in a corresponding move, optioned right-hander Javier Assad to Triple-A Iowa. That brought their active roster to 12 pitchers and 14 position players.

‘‘There’s a multitude of things, like just having a little bit better defense in right [field] to be able to put somebody in there later in games,’’ manager David Ross said. ‘‘And he’s swinging the bat really well down in Iowa.’’

Velazquez, who entered the game Monday in right field as a defensive replacement in the eighth inning before being lifted for a pinch hitter in the 10th, made his major-league debut last season. He was in big-league camp with the Cubs this spring and played for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic. But the Cubs decided to fill right fielder Seiya Suzuki’s spot with a rotating cast of versatile defenders, rather than with a specialized outfielder, while he works his way back from a strained left oblique. That left Velazquez off the Opening Day roster.

‘‘Get him down there, let him get his at-bats, get ready for the season and hopefully get off to a good start in case we need to call up somebody,’’ Ross said when the Cubs optioned Velazquez to Iowa. ‘‘He would be one of those guys who would be in the mix.’’

Though Suzuki is nearing a return, which might come as soon as the next road trip, the Cubs have carried only two true outfielders on their roster for the first week and a half of the season.

Meanwhile, Velazquez did get off to a good start at Iowa, with a 1.129 OPS in eight games. And he has experience making an impact off the bench. Last season, he hit .250 with 11 RBI in 32 at-bats as a sub.

Assad heads to Iowa a day after pitching three innings Sunday against the Rangers. With fellow right-handers Keegan Thompson and Adbert Alzolay also able to throw multiple innings out of the bullpen, Assad’s outing was only his second of the season. After a strong spring, including a dominant performance in the WBC, Assad allowed three runs in each of his outings.

‘‘It’s just not using him enough and the role that we had laid out,’’ Ross said of the decision to option Assad, ‘‘and just getting him back on a regular routine.’’

The Cubs plan to stretch out Assad as a starter in Iowa, but Ross said he still might return to the majors in a relief role.

Injury report

Suzuki and left-hander Brandon Hughes (inflammation in left knee) are progressing toward their returns from their respective rehab assignments.

Hughes is scheduled to throw again for Iowa on Tuesday. He’s eligible to come off the 15-day injured list this week, but the Cubs haven’t provided an exact timeline for his return.

Ross said in a ‘‘best-case scenario,’’ Suzuki would join the Cubs sometime during their West Coast trip to Los Angeles and Oakland, California, which runs from Friday through April 19.

‘‘We’re taking it day to day and making sure he feels comfortable, the at-bats start to build up,’’ Ross said. ‘‘Usually, these guys get 50 [or] 60 at-bats in spring training. He’s nowhere near that. So just trying to get him built up as much as possible.’’

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