Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

With the Cubs offense struggling to push across runs with consistency on a daily basis, reading that Javier Baez has been cleared to swing the bat provides a nice source of optimism moving forward.

It marks another hurdle cleared for Baez, who has been cleared to resume baseball activities for the first time since being sidelined in early June with a fractured finger that occurred while sliding head-first into second base in an Iowa Cubs game against the Memphis Redbirds.

The early estimates pegged Baez missing four to eight weeks, and Baez seems to be progressing toward that mark. The timing could not have been worse for Baez or the Cubs. He had just played his fifth straight game at third base and was one night removed from showing off light-tower power (literally) with a two-run homer.

Before the injury, Baez owned a .314/.386/.536/.922 slash line with 8 home runs and 29 RBI to go along with a 25.3 percent strikeout rate, 6.96 percent walk rate and what looked like a more controlled swing at the dish.

Infielder Tommy La Stella and left-handed reliever Zac Rosscup also returned to baseball activities, joining Baez in Mesa, Ariz., as they rehab their way toward making it back to The Show.

La Stella, who was the Cubs’ second baseman on Opening Night, has been bitten significantly by the injury bug. He has been on the disabled list since mid-April, saw some action in Extended Spring Training, went out for rehab at Double-A Tennessee in May, left a game early during said rehab stint and found himself out at least another month with an oblique injury and was recently moved to the 60-day DL to make room for Clayton Richard on the 40-man roster.

Rosscup, who was called up to take La Stella’s spot on the roster back in April, threw live BP for his first action since being placed on the DL in mid-June with left shoulder inflammation. He limited lefty batters to a .111 average (3 singles in 34 plate appearances) with eight strikeouts to his credit.┬áJames Russell and Travis Wood have held their own against fellow southpaws, but one can’t have enough bullpen options.

No timetables have been set for the return of any of the three injured Cubs rehabbing in Mesa.

Catcher David Ross has passed post concussion tests, but probably will not be activated until after the All-Star break. Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports that Ross will resume duties as Jon Lester’s personal catcher “almost exclusively” when he returns.

And, lastly, a nice sign:

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