Cubs activate Cody Bellinger from the injured list, return Matt Mervis to the minors

ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 06: Cody Bellinger #24 of the Chicago Cubs looks on before the game against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on June 6, 2023 in Anaheim, California. The Angels defeated the Cubs 7-4. (Photo by Rob Leiter/MLB Photo

The Chicago Cubs activated slugger Cody Bellinger from the 10-day injured list before Thursday's game with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Bellinger was in the lineup, batting sixth and playing first base in his first game since May 15 in Houston when he suffered a bruised left knee.

The 2019 NL MVP was batting .271 with seven homers and 20 RBIs when he was injured.

The Cubs optioned infielder Matt Mervis to Triple-Iowa to make room for Bellinger.

Although he has won a Gold Glove in the outfield, Bellinger is expected to ease back at first base, where he has already played 262 times in the majors. 

The two-time All-Star called his injury "a pretty big bone bruise," a condition that can take a long time to heal.

Bellinger says he has no problem running. The athletic 27-year-old will transition back to the outfield as the bruise heals as his ability to change direction improves and he "builds back up to game-like," he said.

Bellinger was hurt in Houston when raced from center field and struck the right-center wall as he jumped to make an acrobatic catch that robbed the Astros' Kyle Tucker of extra bases.

Mervis, 25, hit .167 with three homers and 11 RBIs for Chicago after making his major league debut on May 5.

Manager David Ross expects Mervis to return to the Cubs later this season.

"Very good impression," Ross said. "Just didn't have the offensive performance I think he was thinking of. Some things sped up on him in time."