Cubs' Bellinger, Suzuki could return next week

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CHICAGO — The Cubs are inching closer to getting two of their better hitters back from injury, manager Craig Counsell announced Saturday morning.

Outfielders Cody Bellinger (ribs) and Seiya Suzuki (oblique) could be back with the team as soon as next week.

“Belli is a little ahead of Suzuki,” Counsell said before the Cubs hosted the Milwaukee Brewers. “We’re going through baseball activities, making sure they feel good coming out of that and then progressing.”

Suzuki, 29, has been out since mid-April after tweaking his oblique while running to first base, while Bellinger, 28, has missed the past two weeks after colliding into the brick wall while tracking down a fly ball.

“What’s the pain?” Counsell said of Bellinger’s daily progress. “If it’s nothing, just progress more.”

The team has struggled offensively without its two stars, averaging just under 3.5 runs per game since Bellinger’s injury. Suzuki, in particular, was off to a great start to his season before going down. His OPS+ of 152 was tops on the team — but it’s the second year in a row he has had an oblique ailment, so the Cubs will be cautious before he returns.

“He got hurt on the bases so he’ll need to do some running before he returns,” Counsell said.

The team was hopeful minor league slugger Matt Mervis would help fill the void at the plate with others out of the lineup, but the Cubs sent him back down to Triple-A after he hit just .115 in nine games.

“Matt struggled,” Counsell stated. “We’re looking for production and we just didn’t get it. It’s unfortunate.”

The team will continue to rotate players in and out of the designated hitter role. Infielder Patrick Wisdom will get a chance against Brewers righty Tobias Myers on Saturday. Usually, his playing time comes strictly against left-handed pitchers, but the Cubs are running out of options until their injured players return.

“Next week is realistic for both of them,” Counsell said of Bellinger and Suzuki.

The Brewers, however, added to their injured list. Outfielder Joey Wiemer is on the 10-day IL with left knee discomfort. Milwaukee also optioned righty Corbin Martin to Triple-A Nashville and called up infielder Andruw Monasterio and left-hander Jared Koenig.

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