CHICAGO -- September callups are three weeks away, but Cubs manager Mike Quade is paying attention to the Minor League reports to get a sneak peek at who may be joining the big league club when rosters expand.
Among the players he's watching are right-hander Casey Coleman, who has a 2.77 ERA in his past two starts, giving up four earned runs on 11 hits over 13 innings. He's 4-2 with a 3.91 ERA in 11 starts at Triple-A Iowa.
"He's pitching better," Quade said of Coleman, who has already been called up to the big leagues twice to fill in because of injuries. "The people in Iowa who are watching him and his progress, stuff-wise, command-wise, they have a good feel for that.
"September is coming. If he's making progress and doing a good job, I expect to see him and expect to see him pitch some. I'll let those guys keep us posted on what they think. His last few outings have been good."
Coleman was 2-4 with a 7.23 ERA in 11 games, including nine starts, with the Cubs.
One player Quade would like to see is first baseman Bryan LaHair, who is batting .332 with 31 doubles, 30 homers and 86 RBIs at Iowa.
"I look at a guy like Bryan LaHair -- what a year he's having," Quade said. "He's hit 30 home runs in Triple-A, and I'd expect to see him up here and take a look at him. He's been doing a great job at Triple-A for years."
Quade knows people are eager to see prospects like outfielder Brett Jackson, the Cubs' No. 1 pick in 2009, and pitcher Trey McNutt. They most likely will not be added.
"You can talk about the Jacksons and some of the other people we're excited about, some of the younger players, but I'd like to see guys here who are ready to be here and ready to be taking a serious look at," Quade said. "I think by the end of the season at both Double-A and Triple-A, we'll have a better idea."
Soriano belts 20th homer in 10th straight season
CHICAGO -- Cubs outfielder Alfonso Soriano joined some elite company on Wednesday.
Soriano hit his 20th home run with one out in the sixth inning off the Nationals' Collin Balester, and now joins the Cardinals' Albert Pujols and Red Sox's David Ortiz as the only active players to have at least 10 consecutive seasons of 20 or more home runs, including this season. Pujols has 27 this year; Ortiz 23.
Soriano, 35, began the streak with the Yankees in 2002, when he hit 39 homers. His shot on Wednesday was his fourth in his last nine starts.
He's been a little streaky. In July, Soriano had three home runs in 25 games. In eight games this month, he already has hit three.
"You know it's going to be there and you know he's going to hit 20 and change, and the only thing now is he won't steal 40 bases like he did years ago," Cubs manager Mike Quade said. "He's an interesting guy because he goes through streaks when he struggles, and you don't know when he's going to come out of it and do some damage."
The Cubs hit three home runs Wednesday in a 4-2 win over the Nationals. They've now hit 19 homers in eight straight games.
"Run production is the deal, and if it's going to come in the way of home runs, [Soriano] is one of the guys who has to deliver," Quade said.
The homer also was No. 126 for Soriano with the Cubs, tying him for 15th on the all-time list with Andy Pafko. Soriano is the third player in franchise history with 20 or more homers in each of his first five seasons in a Cubs uniform. Hack Wilson and Andre Dawson also did so.
Can Soriano hit 20 more next season?
"If I work and stay healthy, I can see myself hitting 20 more homers [next year]," he said. "If I play 120, 140 games, I can hit 20 more homers [next year]."
Back in lineup, Aramis returns from back woes
CHICAGO -- Aramis Ramirez was back in the Cubs' lineup Wednesday after missing one day because of back spasms.
Ramirez took batting practice and some grounders at third. He received treatment Monday and Tuesday for his back problems, which flared up enough Tuesday to make him a late scratch against the Nationals.
Cubs manager Mike Quade was happy to have Ramirez back in the middle of the lineup.
"He's been as steady as anybody on this club, other than my leadoff hitter [Starlin Castro], and he's such a huge threat to go along with everything else," Quade said. "He said he felt pretty good. Hopefully, he'll be even better tomorrow."
The third baseman has hit 20 home runs for the ninth time in his career, and is batting .300 (45-for-150) with nine doubles, 15 homers and 36 RBIs in his past 40 games.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter@CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.