PHILADELPHIA -- Ryan Dempster threw a simulated game on Wednesday and could return to the Cubs' rotation as early as Sunday if he gets the go-ahead after one more X-ray.
Dempster, on the disabled list since July 8 because of a broken right big toe, threw 60 pitches to three batters -- Micah Hoffpauir, Jeff Baker and Andres Blanco -- at Citizens Bank Park. Kevin Hart has made two starts in Dempster's place and was scheduled to go Sunday. However, Dempster could step in.
"Possibly," Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild said about inserting Dempster into the rotation against the Cincinnati Reds. "We'll have to see how he reacts to this. He may be ready to pitch sometime this weekend. He's not favoring it at all."
Dempster (5-5, 4.09 ERA) is still on schedule to have an X-ray taken Thursday on the Cubs' off-day. His last exam was on July 15. He doesn't want to look too far ahead.
"I'll let you know on Thursday," Dempster said. "I feel good. We'll see how it goes. It's still a little sore, but it's not painful. It feels really good. Everything depends on the X-ray."
Dempster had been slated to pitch a simulated game over the weekend in Chicago, but the Cubs decided to move it up because the right-hander was feeling so good. Because he had a good mental attitude about the injury, it healed quicker than expected.
"Because of his attitude, with the way he went about it early on, even when he needed to stay off it, he was able to throw a little bit and keep his arm fresh," Rothschild said. "A lot of injuries are attitude. I know it's a broken bone. If you have the right attitude and want to get it done, you'll get it done. We'll see how the X-ray is [Thursday] and that will be the final say, and then we'll go from there."
Dempster avoided any sharp objects -- or any possible toe stubs.
"Any time you get hurt, if you're diligent about your rehab and you take care of it and do what you need to do [you can recover] -- and I haven't knocked it on any beds or nightstands or anything like that, it's been feeling good," Dempster said.
He's eager to get back in a real game.
"I like pitching," Dempster said. "I don't like taking that many days between starts."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.