Cubs’ Kyle Hendricks throws pain-free, eyes mid-July return from DL

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Kyle Hendricks

MIAMI — Right-hander Kyle Hendricks’ longer-than-expected road back from the disabled list took a turn toward the finish line when he was able to play catch without pain Saturday and Sunday at Marlins Park.

‘‘It was good just to go out finally and be asymptomatic and to feel the ball and not have any pain in there,’’ said Hendricks, the 2016 major-league ERA champ, who has been on the DL with tendinitis in his right middle finger since June 5.

Hendricks, who suffered a setback June 13 — the first time he tried to throw after going on the DL — threw Saturday for the first time since then. He said he plans to play catch again the next few days and, barring another setback, set a schedule for bullpen sessions and a brief minor-league rehab stint.

His best-case timeline for a return appears to be just after the All-Star break.

‘‘Of course, it’s probably aggressive right now to think prior to the All-Star break, but you never know,’’ manager Joe Maddon said. ‘‘I don’t want to rule anything out. Just let him go throw.’’

Even with Hendricks sidelined, the rotation has put together its best stretch of the season in the last two weeks. The starters have a 2.30 ERA in the Cubs’ last 12 games.

Hendricks lauded the efforts of holdovers Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta and John Lackey as the keys to that turnaround.

‘‘I feel that on me a little bit,’’ he said. ‘‘I want to come back, obviously, and be part of that and help them out with that.’’

NOTES: Right fielder Jason Heyward’s cut left palm responded well to swings in the batting cage the last two days, and a return from the DL on Thursday in Washington hasn’t been ruled out.

• Utility man Ben Zobrist tested his ailing left wrist with a few swings, but it hadn’t improved enough for him to return to full baseball activity.

• The Cubs have allowed 64 first-inning runs in 75 games after the Marlins scored three in the first (all unearned because of an error by Addison Russell to open the inning). Only the Mets (68) have allowed more in the majors.

• Left-hander Brett Anderson, who has been on the DL since May 7 because of a strained back, began a rehab assignment at Class AA Tennessee.

Follow me on Twitter @GDubCub.

Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com

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