CHICAGO -- Rookie Josh Vitters has been starting at third base against left-handed pitchers, but Cubs manager Dale Sveum instead inserted Luis Valbuena in the lineup Sunday against the Pirates' Jeff Locke.
Vitters still has work to do on his defense, and Sveum wanted a good glove behind starter Chris Volstad.
"It's the routine plays that seem to be giving [Vitters] him the most problems," Sveum said. "The spontaneous plays, he's made all those and in great fashion. He's gotten up and made good throws on the dives and body control plays. He's gotten a lot better since the first day I saw him."
One bad habit Vitters has developed is watching the baserunner when he fields a ground ball, which Sveum said will get a fielder "out of whack right away."
"On routine plays, he wants to look at the runner and pick up the first baseman and it kind of throws the rhythm off," Sveum said.
Are the problems mental or mechanical for the young third baseman?
"You never really know," Sveum said
Shut down for the season, Samardzija looks forward
CHICAGO -- Jeff Samardzija has been reduced to spectator these days. The Cubs pitcher was shut down after his Sept. 8 start because he had reached his innings limit in his first season as a starter.
Saturday would've been his day to pitch, and Samardzija could only watch.
"Essentially, I do the same thing I did before, it's just the fifth day is a little vacant," Samardzija said.
He isn't throwing any bullpens, just playing catch and trying to stay busy.
"It's tough, it's really tough," Samardzija said. "You get into a routine and your body knows when it's ready to go. I'm not too used to sitting and watching. It's kind of hard to watch for real competing going on and not just a pickup game and not be participating."
He's offering advice to the young pitchers about how to deal with opponents, and on Saturday was used as a pinch-runner. Cubs manager Dale Sveum joked that he won't be calling on Samardzija to pinch-hit.
"Let him know it'll be Travis Wood before him," Sveum said. "Or [Chris] Rusin if he's not pitching. [Samardzija] has moved down on the totem pole. No extra-base hits. He's got the starting pitcher stuff figured out, now he's got to spend the winter hitting."
"That's all I hear from [Sveum] is, 'You don't have an extra-base hit -- all the other pitchers do,'" Samardzija said.
The right-hander is already thinking about next season. He'll go to Arizona on Dec. 1 to begin his program. Part of his training involves throwing a football to build up arm strength. Considering he was an All-American wide receiver at Notre Dame, that seems natural. Samardzija said he made the right choice in sports.
"The smell is always there," he said of fall. "It gets ingrained in you after doing it for so long. I'm OK. I'm having success in baseball and working hard for everything, so that makes it a whole lot easier. When you struggle and you're not getting out of it what you want to get out of it, it's tough."
Samardzija finished 9-13 in 28 starts over 174 2/3 innings. Next season, he won't have to worry about limits.
"No chains next year at all," he said.
Soriano defying age with impressive season
CHICAGO -- Alfonso Soriano is 36 years young, and playing as if he's 26.
Soriano is one home run shy of 30, and now has 101 RBIs after hitting an RBI single and an RBI double in Sunday's 13-9 win over the Pirates.
When he hits his next home run, Soriano will be the fifth Cubs player, age 36 years or older, to reach 30-100, joining Hank Sauer in 1954 (41 home runs, 103 RBI, age 37), Andre Dawson in 1991 (31 home runs, 104 RBIs, age 36), Fred McGriff in 2002 (30 home runs, 103 RBIs, age 38) and Moises Alou in 2004 (39 home runs, 106 RBIs, age 37).
He's now the sixth Cubs players to reach 100 RBIs in a season, age 36 or older, since the RBI became an official statistic in 1920. Besides Sauer, Dawson, McGriff and Alou, 38-year-old Ernie Banks had 106 RBIs in 1969.
It doesn't surprise Cubs outfielder David DeJesus that Soriano is producing.
"After not ever meeting him until this year, people have different opinions on him, but when I got here and saw how energetic he is, and what he brings to the field every day, it doesn't surprise me at all," DeJesus said. "He's one of those guys who can test time. He's always positive, he always prepares himself for the day every day. He's always ready to play. He wants to be out there. That's one of those guys you can trust as a teammate and I love playing with him."
Soriano is closing in on his career-high 104 RBIs, which he reached in 2005 with the Rangers. Has he been telling the Cubs to get on base ahead of him?
"No, I don't want to put extra pressure on those guys," Soriano said. "They're good hitters and good teammates. They do their job and I do my job."
DeJesus, 32, and Soriano call each other "kid."
"I call everyone 'kid,'" DeJesus said. "Now we just keep it rolling. It is true -- we're a bunch of kids here."
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.