Cubs get very promising injury updates on Marcus Stroman and Michael Fulmer

Not to sound too optimistic, but regular season returns for both pitchers seem possible.
St. Louis Cardinals v Chicago Cubs
St. Louis Cardinals v Chicago Cubs / Michael Reaves/GettyImages

Thanks to the consistency of both Javier Assad and Jordan Wicks, the Cubs have been able to not only weather the loss of Marcus Stroman, but continue to close ground in the NL Central in recent weeks. Still, getting the All-Star right-hander back before season's end would be a nice boost to the staff heading into October.

The latest Cubs injury updates, courtesy of Marquee Sports Network's Taylor McGregor, offer cause for at least muted optimism when it comes to Stroman, who threw live batting practice on Thursday - way sooner than anyone expected given he threw his first bullpen just days ago.

Cubs have made up for the loss of Marcus Stroman surprisingly well

Stroman, who hasn't pitched since July 31 due to injury, threw 29 pitches in the session - so now, we'll have to see how he's feeling on Friday. Time is running out for him to get a rehab start in with the lower-level affiliates, but the Triple-A season has a few weeks left in it, so that could (at least in theory) be an option for him should he continue progressing.

While seeing him throw live BP is definitely a positive bit of news, I have to keep emphasizing the same point I've made over and over again in recent weeks: the Cubs don't just need Stroman back on the mound. They need him back on the mound and healthy - because we saw the results when he wasn't 100% (a 9.00 ERA in seven starts prior to hitting the IL).

So, again, cautious optimism here, folks. That's the name of the game.

Besides Stroman, McGregor had updates on Michael Fulmer, Nick Burdi and Brandon Hughes, the latter two of whom pitched for Iowa on Wednesday. Fulmer is the big piece here, though, given he had become a go-to guy in the bullpen for manager David Ross. The veteran right-hander threw off a mound Wednesday and was set to play catch again on Thursday.

Fulmer got off to a rocky (alright, a flat-out disastrous) start this year with the Cubs, but largely rounded into form as the season went on, with a 2.43 ERA from May 20 to Aug. 19 (although his FIP painted a less optimistic picture at 4.04). Still, bullpen depth is key this time of year, and getting him back and into the mix would be a nice add for the club down the stretch.