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07/18/12 9:00 PM ET

Pitching on Epstein's mind as Deadline nears

If Cubs do make trades, team hopes to replenish system with hurlers

CHICAGO -- The Cubs' best trade chips may be pitchers Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza, but one of the team's goals heading into the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline is to continue to improve the organization's pitching.

Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said calls have picked up as the Deadline approaches.

"You can express a preference for pitching," Epstein said, "but if we're dealing with a club that has better position player prospects or we feel position players in a certain system are a safer bet or offer a higher upside, I don't think it's fair to pigeon hole yourself to one situation.

"As a whole, not specifically regarding these potential deals that are upcoming, we need to add a lot of pitching to the system. It's not enough to have a handful. We need to have waves and waves coming into the system. We don't have that. We hardly have one wave. We need to build a lot of pitching depth."

Dempster, who will be a free agent at the end of the season, is reportedly drawing interest from several teams, including the Dodgers. He has 10 years in the Major Leagues and five with one team, so he can veto any deal. Epstein would not reveal which teams Dempster favored.

Garza, on the other hand, would be under a team's control through 2013. Right now, the Cubs are looking to the future.

"It's an opportunity," Epstein said of the Trade Deadline. "We want to make the most of it. We wish we were looking to add, and hopefully in the years going forward, we'll play better in the first three, four months of the season and be in a position to add going into the playoffs."

Cancer survivors Rizzo, Campana visit kids hospital

CHICAGO -- Anthony Rizzo and Tony Campana, both cancer survivors, did their best Wednesday to help patients at a children's hospital smile.

The two Cubs players visited patients at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital in Chicago for about two hours.

Both Rizzo, 22, and Campana, 26, have overcome Hodgkin's lymphoma, and they tried to show kids that cancer can be beat.

"Sometimes, we'd go into a room and just say hi, cheer them up," Rizzo said. "Other times, we'd talk to them a little more and tell them Tony and I are both survivors and what we went through, and we know it's not fun. Kids were sitting there getting chemotherapy as we're talking to them. We just tell them to have fun."

Rizzo has visited children in hospitals before, but this was his first in Chicago since being promoted to the big league team June 26.

"They were awesome," Rizzo said of the young patients. "This was definitely the coolest [visit], just because everyone was a big Cubs fan. I met a lot of cool kids, inspiring kids."

Campana and Rizzo took their girlfriends on the visit, and Rizzo said some of the kids preferred to talk to them rather than the players. No problem, he said, laughing. They still got their message across.

"The situation I'm in now, I have a chance to go out and show kids that, hey, there's a light at the end of the tunnel and keep fighting no matter what and always have fun," he said.

Pair of Cubs Minor League pitchers suspended

CHICAGO -- Cubs Minor Leaguers Juancito De La Cruz and Antonio Encarnacion were suspended for violating the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball announced Wednesday.

Both are right-handed pitchers. They have each been suspended for 50 games without pay after testing positive for metabolites of Stanozolol.

The suspensions of De La Cruz and Encarnacion, who are currently on the roster of the Dominican Summer League Cubs, are effective immediately.

Ferrell, Galifianakis savor first pitches at Wrigley

CHICAGO -- Uncommon pregame festivities are inevitable when Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis throw out the first pitch and announce the lineups at a Cubs game.

Ferrell and Galifianakis changed out of their suits and into Cubs uniforms Wednesday before taking the mound. After Galifianakis, donning a yellow visor and sunglasses, threw his pitch to Ryan Dempster, a deep dish pizza was delivered to the mound for Ferrell, who threw a hard enough rope to Dempster to draw applause from the entertained crowd at Wrigley Field.

Galifianakis and Ferrell, who portrayed famed Cubs broadcaster Harry Caray for multiple sketches on Saturday Night Live, proceeded to read their own renditions of the Cubs lineup on the field.

"I'm sure I'll mess something up," Galifianakis joked before.

It's hard to tell if anything was butchered.

"Batting fifth, and playing right field, he loves playing the banjo and doing tricks with his pet dog, Chachee, No. 6, Bryan LaHair," Ferrell said.

"Batting sixth, and playing catcher, in his spare time he's an accountant at a styrofoam cooling company, No. 18, Geovany Soto," Galifianakis said.

The comedic duo, who will star in the upcoming movie, "The Campaign," scheduled to open Aug. 10, had fun with the entire lineup.

"It was great," Ferrell said. "I was a little nervous."

Extra bases

• Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro entered Wednesday's game 3-for-17 in his last four games, and his average has dipped to .285, but Sveum sees good signs.

"[Castro] is a guy who is going to be as good as he wants to be, and adjustments are still part of his game, as well," Sveum said Wednesday. "Sometimes you have kids like that, and they may never have gone through any adversity on the offensive part. Sometimes guys learn how to pitch to you, so you have to make those adjustments, or you have to make adjustments in your hitting style to get better and not be content with being OK with a .720 OPS or whatever it is. Adjustments are how you do that sometimes."

In his last 12 games, Castro, one of the Cubs' two All-Stars, was batting .196 (9-for-46).

• Backup catcher Steve Clevenger was batting .449 at home, and .127 away, which would make one think that the catcher should be in the lineup for every Cubs game at Wrigley Field.

"[Geovany] Soto is swinging the bat pretty good, and as good as he has all year," Sveum said. "He's gotten quality at-bats and doing a good job. They're going to share time in the long run."

Soto was batting .191 overall, but .267 in his last eight games.

Clevenger subbed at third base on Tuesday for the first time in the big leagues. He also has filled in at first.

"He brings a lot with that bat, and I think he's only going to get better and better as he sees more and more big league pitching," Sveum said.

• Ryan Dempster, scheduled to start Friday against the Cardinals, is the sixth pitcher since 1900 to win five straight starts in one season and not give up a run in those games. He joins Doc White (1904 White Sox), Don Drysdale (six straight starts for the 1968 Dodgers), Bob Gibson (1968 Cardinals), Orel Hershiser (1988 Dodgers) and Brandon Webb (2007 D-backs).

• Jorge Soler, the Cuban outfielder who signed a nine-year, $30 million deal with the Cubs earlier this month, will make his pro debut in an Arizona Rookie League game on Thursday. Soler was expected to be the designated hitter for the Mesa Cubs.

Albert Almora, the Cubs' No. 1 Draft pick, also has been working out in Mesa, but has yet to get into a game.

• Pitcher Randy Wells, who was 1-2 in 12 games, including four starts, with the Cubs, then designated for assignment in June and outrighted to Triple-A Iowa, has been placed on the disabled list with a right elbow strain.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter@CarrieMuskat. Rowan Kavner is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.