SAN DIEGO -- For the first time in weeks, Padres manager Bud Black was able to answer a question about pitcher Andrew Cashner's return from the disabled list with a high degree of certainty.
"We're hoping he's our pitcher Saturday," Black said.
Cashner emerged from a brief bullpen session before Wednesday's game against the Pirates feeling fine about his right elbow, which hasn't been a source of any soreness in weeks.
Cashner, who went on the disabled list May 17, retroactive to May 15, with elbow soreness, passed a big test Monday when he threw 65 pitches in a simulated game at Petco Park.
His next stop? The starting rotation.
Cashner has a 2.35 ERA in nine starts and 57 1/3 innings with 47 strikeouts and 17 walks. He's only allowed more than two runs once but hasn't received much run support, leading to his 2-5 record.
During his time on the disabled list, Cashner has tinkered with slider grip and release, which is suspected to have caused the initial pain. By moving his fingers on the ball, he's found something that works.
"I'm just kind of moving my fingers on the ball where I can't wrap it, [so I] stay behind the ball," Cashner said. "Hopefully we don't miss a beat when I come back."
The Padres are off Thursday, but start a three-game series at Petco Park against the Nationals Friday. Tyson Ross will start Friday, Cashner on Saturday and then Eric Stults -- now on the bereavement list -- in the series finale Sunday.
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter.Will Laws is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.