July 2012

7/29 Germano to start; Dempster preps

Depending on who the Cubs need Sunday, Justin Germano will likely get the start Monday against the Pirates, who come to Wrigley Field for a three-game series. Germano was acquired from the Red Sox, and had been a starter at Triple-A. In his only Cubs appearance last Saturday in St. Louis, he threw three innings and gave up one run on five hits.

“He’s crafty — he’s not going to light up a radar gun but he’s got great arm speed on all his offspeed pitches and can change speeds on a slow curveball, [and throw] anywhere from 68 to 75, 78 mile an hour curveball, changeup,” Dale Sveum said. “He sinks the ball, keeps the ball down. He’s kind of crafty as much as anything but has command of four pitches.”

* Ryan Dempster threw a side session Sunday and is still scheduled to start Tuesday against the Pirates. Dempster isn’t the only one eager for the Trade Deadline to pass. Was Sveum looking forward to Wednesday, Aug. 1?

“Well, Tuesday at 3 o’clock will be fine, too,” Sveum said. “Not that I know the time [of the Trade Deadline] or everything.”

— Carrie Muskat

7/29 Cubs lineup

Steve Clevenger will be behind the plate with Paul Maholm when the Cubs close the series against the Cardinals on Sunday at Wrigley Field. Maholm enters the game riding a streak of five straight starts of at least six innings pitched with one or no runs allowed. He’s one of two Cubs lefties since 1900 to do so, joining Rube Kroh, who accomplished the feat in 1909. Maholm is 5-0 with a 0.96 ERA in his last five starts, and the five-game winning streak is a career high.

On the positive side, the Cubs have secured their first winning July since going 18-9 in July 2009. The Cubs are 13-9 with three games remaining. Last year, the Cubs were 9-17 in July.

Here’s the lineup:

DeJesus CF

Castro SS

Rizzo 1B

Soriano LF

LaHair RF

Clevenger C

Barney 2B

Valbuena 3B

Maholm P

— Carrie Muskat

7/29 Pitching probables

Looking ahead to the Cubs rematch against the Pirates, here are the pitching matchups. We should know today who will go Monday:

Monday:  TBD vs. LHP Erik Bedard (5-11, 4.32)

Tuesday: RHP Ryan Dempster (5-5, 2.25) vs. RHP A.J. Burnett (12-3, 3.52)

Wednesday: LHP Travis Wood (4-6, 4.98) vs. RHP Jeff Karstens (3-2, 3.88)

— Carrie Muskat

7/28 Lessons learned

Jeff Samardzija didn’t get a decision on Saturday but did post his 11th quality start, and learned a thing or two. He walked the bases loaded in the first against the Cardinals but only gave up one run. Phew. St. Louis then loaded the bases in the sixth and tallied on Daniel Descalso’s sacrifice fly to tie the game. Samardzija fell behind all six batters he faced in the sixth and walked six in the game. It’s the most free passes he’s issued since he walked seven Cardinals on Sept. 26, 2010.

“There were spurts when I couldn’t miss and I was making all my pitches, and there were times when I was battling myself,” Samardzija said. “It almost took having runners on to really get my head on straight and make big pitches.”

He now has a 1.91 ERA in his last five starts, dating to July 2.

“The bottom line was he got all the outs when he had to and did a nice job,” Dale Sveum said.

— Carrie Muskat

7/28 Reed to the rescue

Reed Johnson has heard his name mentioned in rumors so many times, he simply ignores them.

“I’ve had rumors over my 10-year career and never been traded,” Johnson said Saturday. “It’s a situation for me for when you’re packing your stuff, that’s when you believe you’re headed somewhere else. If I stay here, great; if not, I realize that’s part of the game, and I have to move on.”

On Saturday, Johnson drove in the game-winning run with a pinch-hit bunt single in the seventh to give the Cubs a 3-2 win over the Cardinals.

“That was on his own,” Dale Sveum said. “He’s a good bunter, and I remember once in Boston, he did it against us with the bases loaded and it turned into a monster inning.”

Tuesday’s Trade Deadline can’t come soon enough for the players, who are weary of the rumors. It’s not really distracting, Johnson said.

“Once you’re in between the lines, you don’t think about it too much,” he said. “Maybe before the game when you’re in the clubhouse with the guys, everybody’s kind of chipping on each other about getting traded, and you think about it then, but once the game starts, you forget about that stuff. It’s a good release to get out there this time of year.”

He’s had family and friends keep him up to date.

“I feel like my mom could be my agent because she always has an idea of where I’m going to go but I never end up anywhere,” Johnson said. “I might have to fire her.”

Could Johnson, who was batting .448 as a pinch-hitter this year, help a team?

“He’s a valuable guy to a team vying for a championship or trying to get to the playoffs,” Sveum said.

 — Carrie Muskat

7/28 Wait & see

There were no changes in the Cubs’ roster on Saturday, just attempts to ask Dale Sveum the same question: Are you eager for the Trade Deadline to pass?

“I think everybody is ready to get it behind us with everything that’s happened and all the rumors,” Sveum said. “Whether they happen or not, I think everybody will be glad it’s all over with. It’s not over with a lot of times because of the waiver wires. I think the main things will be shutdown one way or another [after Tuesday].”

The Trade Deadline is 3 p.m. CT on Tuesday. Ryan Dempster is scheduled to start that night against the Pirates.

— Carrie Muskat

7/28 Garza makes progress

Matt Garza threw on flat ground Saturday, the first time he’s done so since he came out of his last game one week ago with cramping in his right triceps. Garza will throw a bullpen on Monday but was not expected to start until late next week. The subject of trade rumors, Garza will not start before Tuesday’s Deadline, but, could make his first start back against one of the teams interested in him, the Dodgers. The Cubs travel to Los Angeles for three games next Friday.
“Everything’s gradually progressing and he’s doing much better,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said Saturday about the right-hander (5-7, 3.91), pulled from his last outing after three innings. “We’ll try to get him out there late next week. Everything is going really well. Everything’s getting better each day.”

Tuesday is not only the Trade Deadline, but a personal deadline for Garza as his wife was expected to deliver the couple’s fourth child then.

— Carrie Muskat

7/28 Minor League report

Chris Volstad threw a season-high eight innings and did not give up a run in Triple-A Iowa’s 5-0 win over Oklahoma City on Friday. Volstad, who opened the year in the Cubs rotation, struck out five, walked three and gave up four hits. The win snapped Iowa’s eight-game losing streak.  Dave Sappelt drove in two runs, and stole a base.

Greg Rohan hit his fourth home run but it wasn’t enough as Tennessee lost to Jacksonville, 6-4. Junior Lake had two doubles. Ty’Relle Harris took the loss, giving up four runs on six hits over 2 2/3 innings.

Robert Whitenack threw five shutout innings in Daytona’s 2-0 win over Bradenton. Rebel Ridling hit his second home run, and A.J. Morris picked up the save.

Javier Baez, the Cubs’ first-round pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, hit his 11th home run, a two-run shot in the eighth, in Peoria’s 3-2 win over Cedar Rapids. Baez was batting .335, including .385 with seven home runs and 18 RBIs in July. According to the Peoria Journal Star, Baez paused briefly while crossing home plate after his home run, then was chased back to the dugout by home plate umpire James Rackley. Said Baez: “I was just saying hello to their catcher.”

James Pugliese gave up three runs on six hits over four innings in Boise’s 8-3 win over Tri-City. Wilson Contreras hit a three-run homer in the first, Daniel Vogelbach, Gioskar Amaya and Trey Martin each had two hits.

Lendy Castillo, the Cubs’ Rule 5 pick, who has been on the disabled list with a groin injury, threw four innings Friday for the Mesa Rookie League team. He struck out six and gave up two hits and two walks. Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler was 2-for-4 with a stolen base in the game.

— Carrie Muskat

7/28 Cubs lineup

Darwin Barney is getting a day off Saturday against the Cardinals. The second baseman was batting .231 this month. Here’s the lineup:

DeJesus CF

Castro SS

Rizzo 1B

Soriano LF

LaHair RF

Soto C

Baker 2B

Valbuena 3B

Samardzija P

— Carrie Muskat

7/27 More Dempster rumors

CBSsportsline.com’s Jon Heyman reports Friday that talks between the Dodgers and Cubs are at an impasse, and that the Dodgers are looking at other options. The Dodgers have reportely offered pitching prospects but Heyman said the Cubs were asking for Allen Webster. The Dodgers have the leverage in talks as Dempster has rejected a deal to the Braves, and was believed to only be willing to go to the Dodgers. Matt Garza was another option but he may be a difficult trade candidate because the right-hander won’t get a start until the end of the week. He came out of his last start last Saturday because of cramping in his right elbow.

— Carrie Muskat