Encouraging Chicago Cubs injury update on Justin Steele

Chicago Cubs v Texas Rangers
Chicago Cubs v Texas Rangers / Stacy Revere/GettyImages

Chicago Cubs Opening Day starting pitcher Justin Steele is inching closer to a return after suffering a hamstring injury while fielding a ground ball in the first game of the season.

Craig Counsell indicated during the first weekend of the regular season that the Cubs were hopeful that Steele would return at the beginning of May. It would appear that Steele is on track with the original timeline as he successfully completed his first bullpen session at Wrigley Field on Sunday.

The next stop for Steele will be Arizona as the starting pitcher is scheduled to pitch three innings in a simulated game on Friday at the Cubs' Spring Training complex. Assuming Steele experiences no setbacks after that outing, the Cubs' ace could begin a minor-league rehab assignment as early as next week.

Justin Steele appears to be on track in his recovery from the hamstring injury suffered on Opening Day.

Steele's return to the starting rotation may represent the first opportunity for the Cubs to remove Kyle Hendricks out of the rotation. Hendricks survived Jameson Taillon's return to the rotation as the Cubs moved Ben Brown to the bullpen.

Hendricks showed improvement on Sunday in his start against the Miami Marlins, if you squinted, but his performance still left Counsell with a need for the veteran to be more effective. Assuming that Brown has success as a bulk reliever in the bullpen, that would afford the Cubs the opportunity to leave Javier Assad, 2.11 ERA through his first 4 starts, in the starting rotation.

Setting emotions aside, the decision is relatively easy for the Cubs once Steele returns. Steele's return should also come with the removal of Hendricks from the starting rotation as he is not one of the Cubs' best five starting pitchers at this point in his career.