Hammel cleared to start Tuesday vs. Reds

Right-hander left July 8 outing with strained left hamstring

Hammel cleared to start Tuesday vs. Reds

ATLANTA -- Cubs pitcher Jason Hammel, who had to come out of his last start because of a strained left hamstring, threw on the side Thursday, and said he was good to go for his next start Tuesday against the Reds.

Hammel had to leave his July 8 start against the Cardinals after throwing 12 pitches in the first inning because of the hamstring problem.

"Everything I've been told is that he's going to be OK," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said Friday.

• Rafael Soriano struck out three in one inning of relief Thursday night in his first game with Triple-A Iowa, and could be ready to join the big league team soon.

"I heard he's throwing really well," Maddon said Friday. "I've gotten nothing but good reports. ... I know Rafael really well. The numbers I'm hearing are good numbers. I know when he's throwing like that, he's feeling really good."

Maddon and Soriano were together in 2010 when the right-hander was the Rays' closer, compiling a 1.73 ERA and 45 saves in 64 appearances. He signed a Minor League contract with the Cubs in June, and in five games for Double-A Tennessee, gave up one unearned run on three hits and three walks over five scoreless innings.

The Cubs' bullpen has been performing well. Won't it be difficult to make a roster move?

"Of course it'll be a tough decision," Maddon said, "and it's not going to be mine."

• Maddon met with the Cubs players prior to Friday's game for his post All-Star break/pre-second half talk. If the season ended at the break, the Cubs would have secured a Wild Card spot.

"I wanted to be more specific," Maddon said of his message. "[It was] very honest, very open and honest -- what I'm seeing, what I think, what it's going to take. It was more like a discussion as much as anything but they didn't say anything back at me. It was what I think."

The Cubs were 47-40 at the All-Star break, the 14th time the team had reached 47 wins at that point in the season. They now have 17 consecutive games against teams with sub .500 records.

"I wanted to point out that if the playoffs started, today we'd be in the playoffs, and now it's up to us at the end of the season that the same thing can be said," Maddon said. "Our goal is to win the division, not just simply to qualify."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.