CHICAGO -- Cubs pitcher Randy Wells mentioned one of his teammates had given him a "kick in the butt," which resulted in a strong outing on Wednesday against the Braves.
Wells wouldn't identify who delivered the pep talk, but the identity has been revealed. It was Ryan Dempster, who downplayed his involvement.
"We see each other pitch all the time," Dempster said. "We have pitching coaches and managers and bullpen coaches, but I've seen [Wells] pitch since the time he was in 'A' ball. I just reiterated something he knew, but he's the one who did it. The key now is to continue that."
On Wednesday, Wells gave up two hits over 6 2/3 innings, walking two and striking out six, in a 3-2 win. The first hit was an infield single in the fourth, and the other hit was a solo homer by Chipper Jones in the seventh.
Sometimes the message has more impact when it's from a teammate and not a coach or manager.
"It might have been something he had already been hearing," Dempster said. "But sometimes when you hear it from a different voice -- like when your parents tell you to do something and your buddy tells you the same thing, you're like, 'Oh yeah, you're right.'
"I think it's something [Wells] knew, and maybe somebody saying it in a different way or helping out [worked]. Like I said, he's the one who went out and did it."
Byrd trusts approach despite RISP struggles
CHICAGO -- Marlon Byrd doesn't change his approach when there are runners on base, but somehow the balls he hits in those situations seem to find people.
The Cubs center fielder entered Friday's game against the Brewers batting .333 with nobody on base and .196 with runners in scoring position. He has 24 RBIs in 91 games; in August 2007, he had 20 RBIs in 25 games.
"It's one of those things where if you break it down and you look at my at-bats with runners in scoring position, I have a couple strikeouts, a couple popups and groundouts," Byrd said Friday, "but I also have a lot of line drives and hard-hit balls right at people. It's just one of those things."
He has maintained his same hitting routine, working with coach Rudy Jaramillo in the cage every day. Is it luck?
"It's not just bad luck, it's one of those years where you're off," he said. "There's a runner out there, you get your pitch and you miss it."
A perfect example was the fourth inning of Thursday's 8-3 loss to the Braves. Carlos Pena was on second with one out after a bunt single and stolen base. Brandon Beachy threw a fastball down the middle to Byrd, who put a good swing on the pitch but popped up to second baseman Dan Uggla.
"I'm not result-minded and never have been," Byrd said. "I trust my mechanics. You see the ball and hit it, and whatever happens, there's not much you can do."
Byrd is batting .292 overall, so it isn't as if he is struggling at the plate. And if the numbers are reversed next season?
"Next year, everyone will say, 'What changed?'" Byrd said. "[My answer will be] nothing."
Brewers pitching coach Rick Kranitz was Cubs manager Mike Quade's pitching coach at Triple-A Iowa in 2004-05, part of the 22 seasons Kranitz spent in the Cubs organization. And he apparently had some unusual techniques.
Quade said he remembered one season when Kranitz wanted to change the team's luck, so he bought a samurai statue. It was presented to the players and named "Samurai Sec Taylor," in honor of what was Sec Taylor Stadium in Des Moines, where the Iowa team played.
The statue was adorned with beads and other trinkets, and the Iowa Cubs won the next two games after its debut and made the playoffs.
"Now, 'Samurai Sec Taylor' is a legend," Quade said.
They created a special box for the statue to travel in. Unfortunately, its special powers wore off in one close game in the playoffs. One of the players, Russ Johnson, was so upset, he took a bat to Samurai Sec Taylor and shattered it.
The Iowa Cubs didn't need it. They won their next two games to reach the championship series.
Andrew Cashner threw 15 pitches, 10 for strikes, in one inning for Double-A Tennessee in his second rehab outing Friday. Cashner, on the disabled list since April 6 with a strained right rotator cuff, faced the minimum and had one strikeout. He will rest two days, then is expected to make another start for the Smokies.
Aramis Ramirez extended his hitting streak to 15 games with a one-out double in the first inning against the Brewers on Friday. This is his longest streak since a career-high 22-game stretch from May 14-June 11, 2003, with the Pirates.
There is no word yet on players to be called up to the Cubs when rosters expand in September. There are considerations other than who is playing well. For example, service time and who is on the 40-man roster play into the decision.
"I know there are all sorts of considerations," Quade said.
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.