CINCINNATI -- Good news may be around the corner in Arizona, as John McDonald made promising strides to a second-half return.
McDonald was placed on the 15-day disabled list on July 2, retroactive to June 25, nursing a slight strain of his left oblique, which he thought was suffered in Kansas City in mid-May.
The 37-year-old shortstop took some swings in batting practice Sunday, a step D-backs manager Kirk Gibson had been keeping a close eye on.
"He's back at our spring facility, and he's getting better," Gibson said. "He's starting to kind of let it go and that's what he was waiting for."
McDonald is batting .267 this season with four home runs and 12 RBIs.
Gibson said he hopes to have McDonald back in the lineup soon after the four-game Cincinnati series.
"Hopefully, by the end of the week, he can start playing games," Gibson said.
Shortstop Stephen Drew, who recently returned to the lineup, is hitting .205 with eight hits and three RBIs in 39 at-bats this season entering Monday.
D-backs will proceed cautiously with Kubel
CINCINNATI -- The D-backs are continuing to monitor the progress of left fielder Jason Kubel as he slowly works himself back to game speed.
Kubel left Friday's game against the Cubs with tightness in his hamstring. He was out of the lineup Saturday but came on to pinch-hit in the ninth, grounding into a game-ending double play.
While Kubel was left out of the lineup both Sunday and Monday, D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said the club considered pinch-hitting Kubel again Sunday.
"He was somewhat stiff [Sunday] before the game, so we'll try to avoid going backwards with this," Gibson said. "As much as you want to do things, sometimes you just couldn't do it."
Gibson called the injury "a little concerning" but added that they don't plan on putting the 30-year-old on the disabled list.
"He doesn't want to [go on the DL], we know that," Gibson said. "We don't want to put him there, but time will tell. If he doesn't get well in the next couple days, then we'll probably be more inclined to consider that."
Arizona could use Kubel's bat in the lineup after scoring just three runs in as many games in Chicago.
Kubel began the day batting .292 this season and led the team with 15 home runs and 60 RBIs.
"I'm feeling better," Kubel said. "Each day is better and I'm able to get looser easier."
With the team on a four-game visit in Cincinnati, Kubel believes his chances of making a recovery are higher than they were using the dated facilities at Wrigley Field in Chicago.
"I haven't really had many opportunities like we have [in Cincinnati]," Kubel said. "Chicago is a little different place. There's a lot more I can do here to get ready and prepare my body."
Kubel said he hopes to be back in the lineup Tuesday.
Saito moving closer to debuting with D-backs
CINCINNATI -- The D-backs may be close to adding another veteran arm to the bullpen.
Forty-two year-old Takashi Saito has yet to make an appearance with the club, but he is well on his way after throwing one perfect inning at an Arizona League game Friday and another inning Sunday.
He has missed all of the 2012 season thus far with a right calf strain and a respiratory illness.
Saito is slated to take Monday off and throw again Tuesday, followed by another off-day and an appearance Thursday.
"We've just got to get him on a streak of good," said manager Kirk Gibson. "He threw more aggressive [Sunday], throwing more of his secondary pitches as well as his fastball."
Gibson he was pleased with Saito's progress and velocity, which sat around 90-91 mph.
"He's turning the corner," Gibson said.
Mark Clements is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.