Cubs reinstate left-hander Brandon Hughes, option outfielder Nelson Velazquez

Velazquez could be back on the active roster soon.

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LOS ANGELES — For the first time this season, the Cubs have a left-hander in their bullpen.

Before facing the Dodgers on Saturday, the Cubs reinstated Brandon Hughes from the 15-day injured list. In a corresponding move, they optioned outfielder Nelson Velazquez to Triple-A Iowa.

Velazquez only played two games since the Cubs recalled him this past week, first as a defensive replacement, then as a starter in right field against the Mariners. His performance at the plate has been memorable. He went 3-for-4 with a game-changing grand slam.

“He’s improved his game,” manager David Ross said. “The at-bats were calm. He worked a walk in the start he had that I thought was very impressive. He played a great outfield, which is an improvement from last year. I can’t say enough good things about Nelly.”

Velazquez should be back on the active roster soon. He’s the obvious choice to replace Cody Bellinger when the center fielder goes on paternity leave, which is expected to be soon. But the Cubs have been down a pitcher, and right fielder Seiya Suzuki being reinstated from the 10-day IL on Friday cut down on the available at-bats for outfielders.

Hughes started the season on the IL. In spring training, he was dealing with what the Cubs called left knee inflammation, stemming from an old surgery he underwent to repair his left meniscus in 2015. Hughes has been able to manage any discomfort since then, but the flare-up this spring started affecting his mechanics.

“Still working his way back to being really sharp, but it’s nice to be able to get him back now,” Ross said. “There’s a lot more leverage you can pull when you have a guy like that down there. And it also deters a lot of things from the opposing side, of when they can roll out those left-handed hitters off the bench.”

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