ST. LOUIS – The Cubs already made their Alex Rios trade, clearing space in the outfield, picking up a prospect and saving millions by convincing Alfonso Soriano to return to the New York Yankees.
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While the White Sox made headlines for their deal with the Texas Rangers, everything aligned for the Cubs before the August waiver period (including ownership reportedly overruling Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and pushing for Soriano).
It sounds like moving someone like closer Kevin Gregg and/or outfielders David DeJesus and Nate Schierholtz – three names mentioned frequently before the July 31 non-waiver deadline – would be another long shot.
“We’ve had a lot of discussions about what we will do,” general manager Jed Hoyer said before Friday’s 3-0 win over the St. Louis Cardinals. “Sori would have been probably the most analogous thing to Rios. We made that deal in July, so we don’t have a similar move for August.
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“The guys you are probably talking about are probably not likely to clear.”
If there are no big moves remaining for a 51-64 team this month – “Schierholtz Watch” doesn’t have the same ring to it – the focus will be on guys like Chris Rusin.
In front of 42,664 fans, Rusin became the first Cubs left-hander to throw at least six shutout innings in a start in St. Louis since Ken Holtzman threw seven scoreless on Sept. 19, 1979 in the second game of a doubleheader at old Busch Stadium.
Rusin scattered seven hits, struck out five and walked two before getting pulled for a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning. That’s when Junior Lake and Anthony Rizzo came through with two-out singles, driving in three runs and showing the kind of situational hitting that has made the Cardinals a 66-49 team.
After trading away 40 percent of their rotation last month (Scott Feldman and Matt Garza), the Cubs watched Rusin improve to 2-1 with a 3.08 ERA through five starts, making his case to stay in the big leagues.
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The Cubs have guaranteed that Jake Arrieta, a key piece in the Feldman deal, will return to the rotation at some point this season, and manager Dale Sveum has raved about his 97 mph stuff.
Scott Baker’s rehab assignment is supposed to restart next week, and the Cubs need to see where he’s at in his recovery from Tommy John surgery before seriously discussing another contract this offseason. (Hoyer said reliever Matt Guerrier will likely need surgery to deal with a “flexor mass” elbow issue, though not a Tommy John procedure.)
Plus, fire sales for two straight summers has restocked the system with more arms, meaning this could be the best chance for a 26-year-old lefty to prove he belongs in this rotation.
“You can put a lot of pressure on yourself,” Rusin said. “It’s hard, but I try to just block it all out and concentrate on the game I’m pitching that day and go from there.”