CHICAGO -- Juan Cruz, such an important contributor as the Pirates' bullpen was establishing its reputation as the National League's best, is at least two weeks from being able to return and help in the push for a postseason berth.
Cruz, on the disabled list retroactive to July 18 with inflammation in his pitching shoulder, on Sunday threw from a mound for the first time, about 20 fastballs to a standing catcher just to get himself reacquainted with the slope of the mound.
Cruz played long toss on Monday and is scheduled for a regular bullpen session Tuesday of 25-30 pitches, throwing his entire repertoire.
"Knock on wood, he responded well [to the Sunday workout]," pitching coach Ray Searage said. "The first time they throw a full side [session on the way back from injury], I like to keep it under 30 pitches."
Although Cruz evidently is making steady progress, the rehab assignment foreseen for him by Searage would take at least until mid-August to complete.
"I would like to see a Monday-and-Wednesday set, then back-to-back days," Searage said of the ideal rehab workload for a reliever.
Cruz, 33, has a 1-1 record and has even picked up three saves in 37 appearances, with an ERA of 2.61. Well enough, but he didn't allow a run until his 13th outing of the season and entered June with an ERA of 1.45 in 20 games.