Ryan Dempster back before break?

ATLANTA -- Chicago Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster may not even wait for the second half, saying Wednesday he could return from the disabled list Sunday against the Mets in New York.

Dempster, who has been out since June 18 with a sore right latissimus dorsi muscle, threw a full between-starts bullpen session Wednesday and said everything felt as good as can be expected.

The plan was for him to pitch in a simulated game before making his return, but Dempster thinks the schedule can be altered a bit.

"I think they trust me to make the right decision," Dempster said. "I also don't want to go out there on a 50-pitch limit. That doesn't do us any good."

Actually, putting him on a limited pitch count would be the easy part of the decision. With the All-Star break starting Monday, the Cubs wouldn't be as afraid to get everybody in the bullpen involved and could even have two starters pitch in relief if needed.

"We're going to give it some thought," manager Dale Sveum said. "Everything is going so well and we'll probably evaluate him tomorrow and Friday and make a decision probably on Friday and see how everything goes the next couple of days."

The plan isn't without risks, of course. Teams that are interested in making a deal for Dempster will no doubt want to see him make a healthy and effective outing before they consider a trade. If Dempster has any kind of setback on Sunday then it's conceivable he could be out of action until the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

"There's always risk when you're talking about a guy with injury but we'll kind of evaluate it and we'll go from there," Sveum said. "You have to get all the parties involved and (we) will make an announcement on that. I have been watching him throw and he looks good but we're talking about a guy who has been on the DL for a little bit so there's always risk and concern, especially with a guy that has thrown the ball so well this year."

But if there is anybody the Cubs would allow to come back a little ahead of schedule, it's the veteran Dempster.

"He's so in tune with his mechanics and his arm and how he feels and stuff," Sveum said. "It's at the point where it's not like we'll leave him out there for 110 pitches or something either. He's feeling as good as he ever does. That's the kicker to it all, how good he feels."

If Dempster does return Sunday, it would eliminate the need to cover his rotation spot one more time. Randy Wells has pitched twice in Dempster's spot while Chris Volstad has gone once. Neither had any success, with Volstad giving up six runs in Tuesday's defeat.