CHICAGO -- As of Thursday afternoon, Ryan Dempster was still a Cub. And as far as the right-hander is concerned, the only thing on his mind is his next start, which is scheduled for Friday in St. Louis.
Dempster, one of the top arms available as the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline nears, said he's had a few conversations with Cubs brass about potential moves, but no deal is imminent.
As a player with 10 years of Major League service and the last five with the same team, Dempster can veto any trade.
"It's just kind of like, 'Hey, there's teams interested,' and that's great. Nothing imminent, not that I know of," Dempster said. "I'm sure if they have something, they'll come to me. But right now I'm just trying to get ready for tomorrow's game."
Dempster's stock is at an all-time high, as the right-hander -- who is 5-3 with a 1.86 ERA on the season -- has tossed 33 consecutive scoreless innings. Dempster said he's conscious of the streak, and said he "[wants] to shatter" Orel Hershiser's all-time mark of 59 consecutive scoreless innings, set in 1988.
"I know I haven't given up a run in five starts. I'm not naive," Dempster said. "Like I said when I had a no-hitter going before, I know when I have a no-hitter going. I know that I have it, so I'm just going to try to keep it going, for sure. When you don't give up any runs, you win games, so I like that."
Between the scoreless-inning streak and preparing for his next start, Dempster said he doesn't spend much time keeping up with the rumor mill. Although he said it's flattering so many teams are reportedly interested in him, he's still focused on his next start, which -- as of Thursday afternoon -- appears will take place in a Cubs uniform.
"I just think that there's a lot of things between pitching and on-the-field stuff and then stuff about trades, and it's a lot of information to try to process, so for me, I try to limit what I read and my focus is just going out there and pitching," Dempster said. "Probably my biggest focus right now is just going out there and be ready every fifth day. I still have a job to do, and I take a lot of pride in that, so if I'm not putting my attention, my sole focus into that, I'm doing the team a little bit of a disservice."
Highly touted Soler set for debut with Mesa Cubs
CHICAGO -- Jorge Soler's professional career is about to begin.
Soler, the Cuban outfielder who signed a nine-year, $30 million deal with the Cubs earlier this month, is scheduled to make his pro debut in an Arizona Rookie League game Thursday. Soler was expected to be the designated hitter for the Mesa Cubs.
Although Dale Sveum's focus remains on the players on the Major League roster, the Cubs manager admitted he's excited to start getting reports on the 20-year-old outfielder.
"He's just another guy you're going to want to see how he does and get the manager's report and see how his swings were and how he played the outfield, those kinds of things," Sveum said. "As well as [first-round pick Albert] Almora, but he's a little bit further away. But those guys are the guys you keep track of and see what you're doing."
Sveum has yet to see Soler play in person, but he did watch video of the outfielder during the winter and came away impressed, saying Soler possesses "a pretty impressive swing and strength and, obviously, body type that should play out in the big leagues."
Sveum said it's too early to put a timetable on Soler's development, but said the organization should have a better idea after the outfielder plays this fall.
Cubs land righty Germano, designate Asencio
CHICAGO -- After the Cubs beat the Marlins on Thursday to improve to 14-5 since June 25, Jeff Baker apparently joked that the players expect to add pieces and be buyers, not sellers, at the Trade Deadline. On Thursday, the Cubs did just that.
The Cubs acquired right-handed pitcher Justin Germano from the Red Sox for cash considerations. Right-handed pitcher Jairo Asencio was designated for assignment to make room on the roster.
Germano, 29, was expected to be available Friday in St. Louis when the Cubs open a three-game series.
Germano's contract was selected by the Red Sox on July 4, and he threw 5 2/3 scoreless innings in relief on July 7 against the Yankees before being designated for assignment on July 13. The Cubs are Germano's fifth Major League team. He has pitched for the Padres (2004, 2007-08), Reds ('06), Indians (2010-11) and Red Sox ('12).
At Triple-A Pawtucket, Germano was 9-4 with a 2.40 ERA in 17 appearances, including 16 starts.
Asencio, who was claimed off waivers from the Indians on June 1, had a 3.07 ERA in 12 big league appearances with the Cubs.
Cubs put hot-hitting Baker back in lineup
CHICAGO -- Jeff Baker has continued to play his way into the Cubs' lineup.
The utility man, who started Thursday's series finale against the Marlins in right field, has appeared in 10 of the Cubs' 14 games this month.
Baker is hitting .324 (24-for-74) in his last 27 games. The right-handed hitter owns similar splits against left-handers (.284 batting average) and righties (.286), and he has continued to platoon with lefty-swinging Bryan LaHair, who shifted to right field after the arrival of first baseman Anthony Rizzo.
LaHair is hitting .071 against left-handers this season.
"Probably the last two, three weeks, he's been swinging the bat a lot better than he was early, especially off left-handers, so he's been getting a lot of big hits, home runs and doing a great job off the bench," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said of Baker. "You want to call it a platoon or not, it basically is now. He's just swinging the bat too well not to be in the lineup."
Thursday's series finale against the Marlins ended a stretch that began June 8 in which the Cubs played only three of 34 games against National League Central opponents. Friday's series opener in St. Louis begins a stretch in which the Cubs will play division foes in 26 of their next 32 games.
The Cubs entered Thursday hitting .305 (32-for-105) with runners in scoring position this month. They batted only .199 (39-for-196) in such situations last month.