Cubs left-handed pitcher Cole Hamels was scheduled to play catch Friday for the first time since suffering a left oblique strain June 30 at Cincinnati.
"We'll see how he feels, but he's been feeling pretty well prior to the break," manager Joe Maddon said. "Talking to him, he was pretty optimistic, so (Friday) will be important to how he feels going into (Sunday)."
Maddon said the medical staff will evaluate Hamels, who is 6-3 with a 2.98 ERA in 17 starts, to determine his next step. No timetable has been given for Hamel's return, but he is expected to advance from playing catch to throwing bullpen sessions.
The Cubs have also not disclosed their starter for Tuesday's game against the Reds. "We have something in mind, but we have to make sure everyone is spoken to," Maddon said.
In other news, Maddon said catcher Willson Contreras will start the next three games after getting another day of rest Friday, and second baseman Robel Garcia will start in two of the three games against the Pirates, starting with Friday's game.
"Let him go play," said Maddon, giving every indication that Garcia, who is batting .364 with two home runs in 11 at-bats, will be given every chance to win the second base job. "The kid has been through a lot just to get here. I don't want to heap a lot of extravagant expectations on him."