Arrieta set for determining bullpen session

Right-hander could be back next week if all goes well; Russell nearing return

Arrieta set for determining bullpen session

CHICAGO -- Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta will throw a bullpen session on Saturday that will likely determine when and how much the right-hander pitches the rest of the regular season.

If all goes well, Arrieta, who is coming back from a right hamstring strain suffered on Sept. 4, could start three more games, beginning with the Cubs' series against the Brewers that starts on Thursday.

"He's champing at the bit," Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said Friday. "He's pushing the schedule and working his tail off. He felt good coming off the last bullpen [session on Thursday].

"If [Saturday] goes really well, there's a chance he could take the ball three times," Epstein said. "The worst thing you can do is rush it."

Jon Lester will open the Cubs' Interleague series on Tuesday against the Rays. Wednesday's starter has not been named yet.

• Shortstop Addison Russell, sidelined since Aug. 3 with a strained right foot, wants to return this weekend, but the Cubs want to see him do one more workout on Saturday before deciding when he will be inserted back in a game.

"He is pretty close," manager Joe Maddon said. "He'll get another workout in [Saturday] and we'll make a determination."

Russell is now wearing orthotics to avoid reaggravating his foot.

"I'm ready to get out there," Russell said. "Maybe a chance this weekend, maybe a chance early next week. I think this weekend would definitely be ideal."

The Cubs will take the same approach with Russell as they did with catcher Willson Contreras, which is to have him play a few innings, but not the full nine. They're taking that approach because there's no place for Russell to rehab since the Minor League season is over.

"It's all about seeing as many pitches as I can before I get into a game, and get into that first game and build off of that," Russell said. "I just need reps, I just need reps."

• Reliever Hector Rondon has not pitched since Sept. 8 because of inflammation in his right elbow.

"There's nothing structurally wrong with him," Maddon said of the right-hander. "We just need to give him a break now."

The Cubs' bullpen hasn't been as sharp as they'd like heading into the final two-plus weeks of the season. Koji Uehara has been bothered by an infection in his right knee, and lefty Justin Wilson has been struggling with command.

"Bullpens go through peaks and valleys, and we're in a valley right now," Epstein said. "That's unfortunate, because at this time of year, you want to be clicking on all cylinders."

• Catcher Victor Caratini and pitcher Jen-Ho Tseng were honored before Friday's opener vs. the Cubs as the club's Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Year, respectively.

• Cubs Charities will help those affected by Hurricane Irma by donating 50/50 Raffle proceeds from Saturday's game to the American Red Cross.

Fans can purchase 50/50 Raffle tickets from uniformed Cubs Charities raffle ticket sellers starting two hours before the game until the middle of the seventh inning. The winning ticket will be announced in the top of the ninth, and the winner will receive a check for half of the net proceeds from the game's raffle ticket sales. The other half will be donated by Cubs Charities to the American Red Cross to help people recovering from the storm.

If fans cannot attend Saturday's game, they can make a donation to the American Red Cross to support Hurricane Irma disaster relief and recovery efforts by visiting www.redcross.org.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. 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.