05/04/2013 1:35 PM ET
Pinch of Navarro's bat the perfect recipe for Cubs
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- Dioner Navarro seems to have perfected hitting off the bench.
The Cubs backup catcher is 5-for-9 (.556) as a pinch-hitter but 2-for-26 (.077) as a starter.
"I think his personality has a lot to do with that," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said Saturday. "He's not a guy who's up there thinking a lot. He's also a guy who can make adjustments and he can hit a fastball. [On Friday], you could tell he was making adjustments to get on top of the fastball and not just swinging the bat."
Navarro came off the bench in the ninth against the Reds' Aroldis Chapman and hit a leadoff single. Sveum is aware of the discrepancy in Navarro's stats.
"I know, it's kind of weird," Sveum said. "I had a year like that -- it might have been my last year. I started once in a while, and I stunk, but every time I got up, I'd get a pinch-hit. It was kind of weird that way."
Maybe he didn't think too much when he pinch-hit?
"That's what it comes down to sometimes," Sveum said. "Starters, since they have four pitches, you might sometimes get caught [thinking], 'Well, he might throw this one, he might throw that one.' Off the bench, you're geared up for the fastball and what happens, happens."
Gregg knows perils of pitching non-save situations
CHICAGO -- Friday was only the second time this season a team has scored on Reds closer Aroldis Chapman. The Cubs managed three runs in the ninth, but came up short in a 6-5 loss.
Cubs manager Dale Sveum was happy about the at-bats, saying the hitters had better approaches against the hard-throwing Chapman.
But Cubs reliever Kevin Gregg noticed Chapman wasn't throwing that hard at the beginning of the inning.
"What I saw yesterday, and what I've seen in the past, is when he came into that inning, the first few batters he faced, he was throwing 93, 94 [mph], so the effort level and intensity wasn't there," Gregg said. "You're just trying to throw strikes and get through the inning.
"But you also get in trouble and go overboard. He cranked it up too far and then he's effectively wild, throwing all over the place, and then he's throwing 98, 100 [mph], and never gets into that comfort zone where he's in a groove. That's the area that causes most closers, especially hard-throwing closers, trouble."
When Chapman pitches in a non-save situation, he is averaging 4.5 walks per nine innings, and 6.8 hits per nine. When it's a save situation, he is averaging 1.50 walks per nine, and 4.5 hits per nine.
Gregg said the difference is the pitcher's mindset in save situations.
"I think it is the mental concentration that comes with a three-run lead, versus just getting some work," Gregg said. "For guys who are hard throwers, I think you'd probably see more of a dramatic difference in their stats. I'm not throwing 100 [mph], I'm a control guy and sit on corners the whole time."
Barney still looking to get into swing of things
CHICAGO -- Last fall, Darwin Barney went to Mesa to spend a week with Cubs manager Dale Sveum and hitting coach James Rowson to work on his swing. Apparently, they're still working.
Barney entered Saturday's game against the Reds batting .179 overall, and was 3-for-14 in his last five games.
"We all know Barney, he's always working and trying," Sveum said Saturday of the second baseman. "I think he needs to stick with one thing and go with that. There's a lot of changing going on every single day."
What does Sveum want to see? He laughed.
"A lot of things," Sveum said. "We don't have enough time for it."
Apparently, Barney abandoned the changes suggested in Spring Training. The problem is more mechanical than Barney's approach.
"The bat head has got to get to a certain point quicker, so to speak," Sveum said. "It's a lot of mechanical [things] -- the back side needs to be better. He's been good lately laying off pitches and getting his walks, but we all know there's that fine line [about being aggressive], and then you get too deep and you're 0-2 and missed two really good pitches to hit.
"There's a lot of process that goes into all of this. Being able to hit the fastball is the No. 1 thing you have to be able to do to be successful in the big leagues."
• Cubs pitcher Kyuji Fujikawa will make a rehab outing on Saturday for Triple-A Iowa, his first game action since going on the disabled list April 13 with a strained right forearm.
Matt Garza, on the disabled list with a strained left lat, will make his second Minor League rehab start on Monday for Iowa, and was expected to throw at least three innings. Both pitchers are hoping for better weather. The Iowa team was snowed out Thursday and Friday.
• With the Cubs' decision to option Ian Stewart to Iowa, Luis Valbuena and Cody Ransom now are the Cubs' third-base combo. Ransom, claimed off waivers from the Padres, starts against left-handed pitchers.
"He's going to strike out a lot against right-handed pitching, but he's always been very dependable in the field at every position, has an accurate arm," Sveum said of Ransom. "He's a guy who's a no panic kind of defensive player. We knew what we were getting and obviously, he's done a really nice job at the plate."
Ransom was batting .375 on the Cubs' current homestand.
• Barney survived a nasty crash into a bench in the visitors' bullpen chasing a foul ball in the fifth inning Friday.
"He was very fortunate that wasn't multiple injuries," Sveum said. "It could've been a head injury, shoulder. He slid perfect -- his arm was above the bench. From here, it looked like he hammered his head."
• Rock Shoulders, named the Cubs' Minor League Player of the Month for April, got off to a good start in May when he hit a walk-off two-run home run in the 11th on Friday to lift Kane County to a 4-2 victory over Bowling Green. It was the first game of a doubleheader, and Shoulders drove in another run in a 3-1 win in the nightcap for the sweep.
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.