"The earliest (he returns) is sometime after the All-Star break," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said Friday. "We are still are going to wait and be sure everything is built up to whatever he can tolerate, but nothing earlier than that."
Dempster, who has been on the disabled list since June 13 with a strained lat muscle, was scheduled to throw on flat ground Friday for the first time since his injury. He has missed two starts which were taken by Randy Wells, who was designated for assignment on Wednesday. The Cubs have not named a starter for Dempster's next turn in the rotation, Tuesday against the Atlanta Braves.
"Everything is on schedule with what we are trying to do with him in his progress of getting better," Sveum said. "There is no timetable yet, but we still will monitor it. The next step (Friday) was throwing at 120 feet (long toss). That will be a big day (Friday), throwing at 120 feet."
Dempster, who will be a free agent at the end of the season, figures to be in demand before the trade deadline on July 31. He is 3-3 with a 2.11 ERA and has pitched 22 scoreless innings in his three June starts.
"We will see how it goes," Dempster said. "I might pitch off of the mound on Saturday or Sunday, but we are not going to rush it. I feel great and have been able to do all of my running and conditioning along the way."
The Cubs begin the second half of the season on July 13 against the Arizona Diamondbacks.