8/3 Lou to Soto: Hurry back

Geovany Soto begins a rehab assignment Monday night for Double-A Tennessee, and if all goes well, Lou Piniella wouldn’t mind having the catcher back with the big league team sooner rather than later. Soto has been sidelined since July 7 with a mild left oblique strain, and the plan was to have him play three days for the Minor League team before joining the Cubs in Colorado this weekend. Piniella wants to speed things up to give Koyie Hill a well-deserved breather. GM Jim Hendry was in Tennessee to watch Soto and check on his progress.

“Wednesday wouldn’t be soon enough for me,” Piniella said.

Hill has caught 207 innings since Soto was hurt. That’s nearly three games more — 27 innings — than any other catcher in baseball. The Dodgers’ Russell Martin is next at 181 2/3 innings.

“I would think if [Soto] catches well tonight, and doesn’t feel any after effects tomorrow and can DH tomorrow, whether he catches in Tennessee on Wednesday or catches here, I don’t see any difference,” Piniella said. “It gives us a chance to rest Hill on Thursday and he’ll have from Tuesday to Friday [off], and then maybe we can alternate them so both can catch.”

Ask Hill and he’ll tell you he can catch every inning from now until the end of the season.

“I believe it,” Piniella said. “He’s done a nice job. Give him credit.”

* B.J. Ryan has made three appearances for Triple-A Iowa but Piniella hasn’t gotten much info as far as how the left-hander is doing. Assistant GM Randy Bush was to watch the Iowa club in New Orleans. Infielder Aaron Miles, who also is playing for Iowa, is swinging the bat better and could re-join the Cubs soon.

– Carrie Muskat

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