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No pain? That’s a gain. Kris Bryant could be back in lineup Saturday

Cubs star Kris Bryant watched from the dugout Friday, but his return to the lineup from an ankle injury could come as soon as Saturday. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

CINCINNATI — Sore? Yep. Painful? Nope.

In Kris Bryant’s mind, there’s a clear distinction between the two terms. And in the Cubs superstar’s right ankle, there’s only soreness after he turned it while stepping on third base Wednesday night in Washington.

Bryant missed the rest of that game before sitting out Thursday’s series finale. He wasn’t in the starting lineup Friday night for a series-opening 5-0 loss against the last-place Cincinnati Reds.

“Sore, but not painful,” he said before the game. “So that’s good.”

Possibly a tad confusing, too, not that there’s any sense in continuing to parse the man’s words. All that matters is Bryant, two days after having to be helped from the field, was basically feeling good to go. Manager Joe Maddon said Bryant and Ben Zobrist — who last played for the Cubs on June 12 — were both “maybes” to play Saturday.

With the first three months of the season in the books, the marching-in-place Cubs — hey, look who’s .500 again — don’t have a whole lot to hang their hats on. But they do have a bunch of health-related news from which to draw encouragement. Bryant is, of course, the biggest part of that equation.

Before Friday’s game, he fielded ground balls, did running drills in the outfield with only mild discomfort and appeared to have no issues taking batting practice.

“The running was probably the biggest concern,” he said, “and it felt pretty good. So that’s a good sign to me.”

Bryant described the initial feeling of stepping on the bag inadvertently in Washington as “snap, crackle, pops.” It rattled him at the time, but on Friday he was confident to run without holding back.

“I’m still young,” the 25-year-old said. “You heal a little quicker when you’re younger.”

Somebody probably told Zobrist that once. The 36-year-old second baseman and outfielder went on the 10-day disabled list with a swollen left wrist on June 13. He played his second consecutive rehab game with Class AA Tennessee on Friday.

Right fielder Jason Heyward, who was eligible to come off his own 10-day DL stint on Thursday, still is healing from a nasty abrasion on his left hand. But he took a full turn in the batting cage Friday and won’t be out much longer.

And then there’s starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks. Out since June 5 with tendinitis in his right hand, Hendricks finally is pointed toward re-entry into the Cubs’ on-the-field atmosphere. Throwing off flat ground Friday, he made tosses of up to 120 feet as he gets his arm back into shape. The middle finger that responded poorly to his first comeback attempt a couple of weeks ago gave him no trouble.

“My arm feels really good,” he said. “The finger feels normal. I feel pretty built up, honestly.”

A rehab start over the All-Star break is a possibility, Hendricks said. The shorter-term goal: just getting back on a mound.

“Let’s get one bullpen [session] in, feel the mound again, feel how everything’s feeling,” he said.

“We can keep moving forward how we are. There are no setbacks at all.”

Follow me on Twitter @SLGreenberg.

Email: sgreenberg@suntimes.com

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