The Cubs take on the A's on Comcast SportsNet Wednesday night. Cubs Pregame Live begins on CSN-Plus at 8:30, but game coverage will be on the main CSN channel immediately following White Sox coverage.
OAKLAND, Calif. – Everyone else gets to take the long view, the front office signing teenagers in Latin America, the fans obsessing over Class-A prospects and the reporters writing big-picture stories about the process.
But the 25 players in the room and the coaching staff are trying to win that night. Organizational rankings, draft positions, Jumbotron drawings and talking about the future won’t do anything for them now.
It’s only going to get harder, with Scott Feldman being traded to the Baltimore Orioles before Tuesday’s 8-7 loss to the Oakland A’s in front of 17,273 fans at O.co Coliseum.
“It’s part of the game,” said Alfonso Soriano, who blasted a three-run homer and looks like he’s heating up for trade season. “I just try to do my job. Just let the front office take care of the business and I’ll try to take care of the business on the field. They know what they’re doing.”
This sends a clear message to the clubhouse, which could soon lose frontline starter Matt Garza, closer Kevin Gregg and whatever pieces the front office can package together to acquire more prospects.
“The 25 guys on the team should never like deals where you give up a guy in the rotation to get young players,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. “For the guys on the field, you always want to be adding and become buyers. That’s the nature of it. Our job is to try to build a great organization. But for the players on the field, their job is to play hard every single night and look to win.
“Unfortunately, we’re 10 games under .500 at this stage of the season. We have three teams in our division that have (close to) the three best records in the National League. Realistically, our chance of playing in October is very small and we need to add a lot of talent to get better for the future. That’s the reality of the situation.”
Garza declined to be interviewed, citing his policy of not talking with reporters the day before he pitches, and the scouts will be watching him closely on Wednesday night at O.co Coliseum. He can be a difference-maker in a pennant race.
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Chris Rusin took Feldman’s scheduled start on Tuesday night and gave up three runs in 3.1 innings while pitching on three days’ rest. The 26-year-old left-hander was 7-7 with a 3.27 ERA at Triple-A Iowa and will work on a start-to-start basis.
Carlos Villanueva (two unearned runs in 2.2 innings) began the process of getting stretched back out again against the A’s (49-35). There’s also the possibility of Scott Baker finishing his Tommy John rehab later this summer and the potential the Cubs (35-46) see in Jake Arrieta, a key piece in the Feldman trade.
So it shouldn’t be the Triple-A product the Cubs rolled out last August and September after trading away 40 percent of their rotation (Ryan Dempster and Paul Maholm) and shutting down Garza and Jeff Samardzija. But that won’t necessarily make it easy to watch.
“I wouldn’t say it’s tough. You just know it’s got a chance of happening,” manager Dale Sveum said. “To get an arm like Arrieta with that kind of athleticism and body, the ability to get a ball to 97 miles an hour but also have a 91 (mph) slider, those are the kind of things you’re trying to get in the organization.”
One of Sveum’s strengths as a manager is his sense of calm. It will be a challenge to maintain the same good clubhouse environment if another fire sale triggers another 100-loss season.
“I’m not concerned about that,” Sveum said. “We’re still viable in being able to fill those roles right now. Obviously, if you start getting more thinner…
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“But I’m not worried. They’re professional players. They got to go out and perform individually anyway.”
Maybe Arrieta figures it out and joins Samardzija and Travis Wood at the front of the rotation for a contending team in 2015. But until then, the Cubs can only dream about adding a Feldman and giving their clubhouse a big in-season lift.
“I hope we’re adding players like him someday,” Hoyer said.