Injury updates: Cubs activate reliever Mark Leiter Jr. from IL, option Ethan Roberts to Triple-A Iowa

BALTIMORE — The stream of Cubs pitchers expected back from the injured list on either side of the All-Star break began to flow when the team activated reliever Mark Leiter Jr. from the 15-day IL before opening a three-game series Tuesday against the Orioles.

‘‘Getting guys back healthy is a good thing,’’ manager Craig Counsell said. ‘‘It’s going to create more depth.’’

In a corresponding move, the Cubs optioned reliever Ethan Roberts to Triple-A Iowa.

If all goes well, right-hander Javier Assad (strained extensor in right forearm) could be next to return from the IL. Reliever Julian Merryweather (stress fracture in rib) is on track to be activated shortly after the All-Star break.

‘‘Mark’s going to have a pretty good role this series,’’ Counsell said before Leiter pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning in the Cubs’ 9-2 victory. ‘‘It’s a left-handed-heavy lineup on a night like [Tuesday], and that suits his strengths.’’

With right-hander Jameson Taillon on the mound for the Cubs, the Orioles started four left-handed hitters and two switch-hitters, a group that included the first four players in their lineup: Gunnar Henderson, Adley Rutschman, Anthony Santander and Ryan O’Hearn.

Against left-handers, switch-hitters generally move to the right-handed batter’s box for matchup purposes. But Leiter, a right-hander who has been used primarily against pockets of lefties in high-leverage situations, has the advantage of forcing switch-hitters to the left side.

He spent about two weeks on the IL with a strained right forearm and said it was ‘‘hard to say’’ how long he had been dealing with the issue. With a high volume of innings, given that the Cubs played the most one-run games in the league, his arm hadn’t been recovering the way he had hoped.

In his last four appearances before landing on the IL, Leiter allowed eight runs in 3⅓ innings. In his previous 28 outings, he had allowed a combined nine runs.

Other pitching news

Assad, who reached his 15-day minimum stay on the IL, threw a bullpen session in Baltimore.

‘‘All reports are it’s been good,’’ Counsell said.

Right-hander Kyle Hendricks, who left his start Saturday with tightness in his lower back, played catch.

‘‘Feels way better than he did on his start day,’’ Counsell said.

Even after exiting Saturday, Hendricks said he was confident he would be ready to start this weekend in St. Louis. He’s scheduled to throw a bullpen session Wednesday in Baltimore, which Counsell described as ‘‘the final check mark.’’

Merryweather and right-hander Caleb Kilian (strained right shoulder) were scheduled to appear in rehab outings Tuesday for Iowa and High-A South Bend, respectively. It was Merryweather’s first rehab game and Kilian’s third.

PCA update

Center fielder Pete Crow-Armstrong was ‘‘fully available’’ off the bench, Counsell said, after hitting in pregame warmups for the first time since getting stitches in his left thumb last Wednesday. He entered as a pinch runner in the eighth and finished the game defensively.

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