Cubs’ Justin Steele diagnosed with minor strain in left forearm

Elsewhere, outfielder Cody Bellinger started his running progression Friday.

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Cubs left-hander Justin Steele underwent an MRI on his left arm Thursday. File photo.

Cubs left-hander Justin Steele underwent an MRI on his left arm Thursday. File photo.

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SAN DIEGO — The results of left-hander Justin Steele’s MRI exam Thursday were promising, as imaging showed only a minor strain in his left forearm. Steele is scheduled to play catch Saturday.

“We’re holding back to see exactly how he feels before we make any kind of long-term decisions,” Cubs manager David Ross said.

Steele’s work Saturday will help inform the next step. The options include putting him on the 15-day injured list — which would mean he’d likely miss two starts — skipping his next start or pushing it back a couple of days.

“It was obviously really good news to hear there was just a mild strain in the muscle,” Steele said. “That’s what we wanted to hear.”

A muscle strain has a quicker recovery time than damage to ligaments or tendons. Steele said the tightness that led to his exit after three perfect innings against the Rays on Wednesday stretched across the middle of his forearm. It has loosened up since.

“Everything’s headed in the right direction,” he said.

There’s no good time to lose a starter with a 2.65 ERA — the fourth-best mark in the National League among starters who had thrown at least 50 innings entering Friday. But the Cubs have the depth to adjust if Steele does miss a start or two.

On Tuesday, they recalled right-hander Hayden Wesneski, who began the season in the rotation, for a bullpen role. It would be an easy transition for him to fill in for Steele. He threw 3 ⅔ innings at Wrigley Field on Wednesday after Steele left the game and was charged with one run.

Right-hander Javier Assad is also stretched out and did an admirable job backing up Jameson Taillon when he came back from a groin injury last month.

“That’s a position you really want to be in as an organization, as a team,” Steele said. “When something happens, the guy you’re bringing up right after him, you feel really confident in. And I feel like that’s the situation we’re in with people like Wesneski, Assad and whoever else the case may be.”

In other injury news

Outfielder Cody Bellinger (bruised left knee) started his running progression Friday at Petco Park before the Cubs opened a four-game series against the Padres. He also took batting practice off a pitching machine on the field. Ross said Bellinger went through these activities pain-free.

“He’s been doing a lot of throwing, a lot of hitting,” Ross said. “Once the running comes, we feel like we can try to speed things up.”

The Cubs are in discussions about whether Bellinger will need to go on a rehab assignment before returning. He hasn’t played in a game since May 15 against the Astros, when he hurt his knee coming down from a leaping catch against the fence at Minute Maid Park. He has been tracking pitches in the bullpen but has yet to face live pitching.

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