Hart was optioned to Triple-A Iowa on Thursday, but the move was done so the right-hander can get some innings in during the upcoming break. He took the loss Wednesday in his first Major League start, which the Braves won, 4-1. Because Hart won't pitch this weekend and won't be available in relief, he will go to the Minor Leagues to stay on schedule.
The team will make a corresponding roster move on Friday, and most likely will add right-hander Jeff Stevens, who was 0-3 with a 2.18 ERA in 30 games at Iowa. Stevens, acquired from Cleveland on New Year's Eve in the Mark DeRosa deal, has struck out 43 and walked 20 over 41 1/2 innings.
Stevens would help in the bullpen during the Cubs' four-game weekend series against the Cardinals, which opens Friday and includes a doubleheader on Sunday.
Hart, who gave up one run on four hits over 5 1/3 innings against the Braves, could be reassigned next week to the Cubs' Class A Peoria team to allow him to keep pitching and stay on schedule for the regular season after the All-Star break. He did that last season, making a start for Double-A Tennessee.
The Cubs' rotation following the break will be Rich Harden on July 16 against the Nationals, then either Carlos Zambrano or Randy Wells the next day, and Ted Lilly July 18. With Hart being optioned Thursday, he will be eligible to come back on July 19.
However, the Cubs could be shorthanded at catcher this weekend. An MRI exam confirmed that Geovany Soto has a left oblique strain, which he suffered in batting practice Wednesday. He will be re-evaluated on Friday and the team wasn't sure if he would be available this weekend.
Koyie Hill can handle the bulk of the catching duties, but the Cubs have the day-night doubleheader on Sunday. Jake Fox was a catcher in the Minor Leagues and could sub in one of those games. The Cubs do not have a catcher at Triple-A Iowa with any Major League experience. Mark Johnson was with the Minor League team, but he is on the disabled list.
The Cubs also announced that Jason Waddell, who was on the 15-day disabled list, has been activated and optioned to Iowa.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.