7/24 40-man realities

There has been plenty of speculation by commenters here about whether or not Jorge Soler or others will be called up in September. On Wednesday, Theo Epstein was asked whether Soler would be promoted because the outfielder was on the 40-man roster.

“The 40-man is a real consideration when it comes to promotions,” Epstein said. “If a player is already on the 40 or has to be protected this winter and has to be added to the roster [because of the Rule 5 Draft], it just makes it easier to call them up than if you have to prematurely add a player to the 40-man just for September.

“We haven’t made those decisions yet,” Epstein said. “We talk about the different possibilities and discuss the pros and cons. We don’t start to focus on it until the last week of August, and even then, we hope that [Triple-A] Iowa will be in the playoffs and we hope they go deep. That affects the calculus if you’re only looking at a couple weeks left in the Major League season.

“Yes, the 40-man does make a difference, and the need to be added for Rule 5 protection, does make a difference.”

For a list of who is on the 40-man roster, you can go to Cubs.com, and click on “Roster.”

– Carrie Muskat

7/23 Extra, extra bases

* With Mike Olt optioned to Triple-A Iowa, Luis Valbuena will get the majority of playing time at third base, manager Rick Renteria said. Valbuena made his 51st start at third on Wednesday; Olt had started 47 games at third.

* Olt will play first base and be the designated hitter while at Iowa. He was batting .139 in 72 games, but did lead all NL rookies with 12 home runs. He also has struck out 84 times in 187 at-bats.

“He acknowledged he’s gotten into a few bad habits at the plate, and bad habits that he couldn’t break out of at the big league level,” Theo Epstein said Wednesday. “I think playing every day down there will be good for him.”

* Cubs pitcher Kyuji Fujikawa, on a rehab assignment with Triple-A Iowa, struck out two of the three batters he faced Wednesday. Fujikawa, who had Tommy John surgery in June 2013, threw 14 pitches, nine for strikes, in his second outing with the team.

* Manny Ramirez, a player/coach at Triple-A Iowa, was placed on the disabled list Wednesday with a right calf strain. Ramirez pinch-hit on Wednesday and was batting .176 (6-for-34) in 11 games with the Minor League team.

– Carrie Muskat

7/23 Trade deadline

The Trade Deadline is approaching, but Theo Epstein says the Cubs aren’t frantically trying to make changes to the roster.

“We’re not in a rush to make moves,” Epstein said Wednesday.

The Cubs made their splash on July 4 when they dealt Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the A’s. Epstein said they are evaluating the current roster to determine who they’d like to keep, who can help the team going forward, and what they can do on the field with the next generation coming up.

“There’s value to keeping players who have roles here for the sake of continuity and leadership and performance on the field,” Epstein said. “We’re not in any rush to make trades for the sake of making trades.”

– Carrie Muskat

7/23 Rizzo’s get well wish

When Anthony Rizzo crossed home plate after hitting his 24th, and then his 25th home runs, he touched his fingers to his lips and then pointed to the sky. It was a message to a 22-year-old cancer patient who the Cubs first baseman had met earlier in the day.

On Tuesday, Rizzo made his monthly visit to the cancer ward at the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, and met one of the patients, Mike, who was recently diagnosed with leukemia. Mike is a “huge Cubs fan,” Rizzo said Wednesday, and the first baseman didn’t exactly promise he would hit a home run, but said he’d try.

Rizzo not only hit one, but notched his seventh career multi-homer game, and third this year, and has set a career high in homers this season, topping the old mark of 23, set last year.

Meeting Mike brought back some memories for Rizzo, 24, who was diagnosed in 2008 with Hodgkins lymphoma, and battled back.

“This one hit more at home for me,” Rizzo said about meeting Mike, his mother, and his girl friend. “I usually don’t get flashbacks, but I did this time.”

– Carrie Muskat

7/23 Looking ahead

The future is bright for the Cubs. Theo Epstein was asked what the team needs to do to build for 2015.

“We were ranked the top farm system in baseball and that’s nice to the extent that it reflects a lot of hard work by our scouts and the player development people and the players themselves, but it really doesn’t mean anything,” Epstein said Wednesday. “We’re in last place. Almost by definition, our work lies ahead of us, it’s not behind us. What do we have to do? We have everything to do.

“We have to continue to build the organization, we have to continue to improve the Major League team. That generation, they’re going to break in at some point and the process of adjusting to the big leagues starts.”

Epstein said Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro are key pieces of the Cubs foundation.

“True baseball fans really like young players and they like following players along the whole journey, and players who are homegrown, they get to know,” Epstein said. “If all goes according to plan, we’ll be able to provide [fans] with that experience and maybe a whole group of players they can get to know for a decade and appreciate and win together.

“You have to balance it out,” he said. “We don’t deserve to be on the covers of magazines, we don’t deserve to be lauded right now because we haven’t done anything yet. At best, what we’ve done is put ourselves in a position to make a lot of interesting decisions going forward and hopefully, have two of the most important currencies in the game in young players and available payroll dollars and go make some hay. We’re not there yet. We haven’t accomplished anything yet. We’re in last place, so all of work remains ahead.”

– Carrie Muskat

7/23 Cubs lineup

Tsuyoshi Wada makes his second big league start Wednesday as the Cubs continue their 10-game homestand against the Padres. Here’s the lineup:

Bonifacio 2B
Alcantara CF
Rizzo 1B
Castro SS
Coghlan LF
Valbuena 3B
Schierholtz RF
Castillo C
Wada P

7/23 Extra bases

* Anthony Rizzo recorded his seventh-career multi-homer effort, his third of the season and his second in four games on Tuesday. He now has eight home runs in his last 12 games since July 7, including five in four games to begin the second half.

Named NL Player of the Week last week, Rizzo leads the NL with 25 homers this season and is fourth in the Majors. His 25 home runs have contributed to a .924 OPS, fifth in the NL. Rizzo has 22 homers since April 30, the most in the NL and second in the Majors in that span (Toronto’s Edwin Encarnacion leads with 24).

* The Cubs recorded their seventh shutout of the season Tuesday after recording six all of last season. Chicago had nine shutouts in 2012. The team has been blanked 11 times this year.

7/22 Recap of Cubs moves

* Mike Olt leads all National League rookies with 12 home runs, but he’s also first with 84 strikeouts and was batting .139 after going 0-for-4 Tuesday with three K’s. After the game, Cubs announced they were optioning Olt to Triple-A Iowa. The Cubs need to open a roster spot for pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada, who will be making his second big league start Wednesday against the Padres. Olt, acquired one year ago Tuesday from the Rangers in the Matt Garza deal, went 2-for-35 in June, and was 3-for-25 in 12 games in July. If there’s a plus to the demotion, it’s that he’ll be reunited with Manny Ramirez, who is a player/coach at the Cubs’ Triple-A team, and a former teammate of Olt’s.

* Fans eager for the so-called “core four” to get closer to the big leagues got their wish. On Tuesday, the Cubs announced they were promoting top prospects Jorge Soler and Albert Almora. Soler, 22, was batting .415 at Double-A Tennessee after going 2-for-3 on Tuesday with a triple. The outfielder was limited early this season because of leg injuries. Almora, the Cubs’ No. 1 pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, hit his seventh home run on Tuesday, and was batting .283 with 50 RBIs.

* Darwin Barney was designated for assignment, and Emilio Bonifacio activated from the disabled list Tuesday. Barney, 28, was batting .230 with 10 doubles, two triples, two home runs and 16 RBIs in 72 games this season. He won the Gold Glove in 2012 after tying a Major League single-season record with 141-consecutive errorless games. But his offense has not been able to keep up with his defensive skills. He batted .254 in 2012, and .208 last season. Since making his big league debut with the Cubs in 2010, Barney has batted .244 with 88 doubles, 18 home runs and 146 RBI in 542 games.

– Carrie Muskat

7/22 One more roster move

The Cubs announced Tuesday night that Mike Olt will be optioned to Triple-A Iowa to make room for Tsuyoshi Wada. Olt was batting .139 with 12 home runs 84 strikeouts.

7/22 Minor League roster moves

The Cubs announced Tuesday night that Jorge Soler would be promoted from Double-A Tennessee to Triple-A Iowa, and Albert Almora will be promoted from Class A Daytona to Tennessee.

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