5/14/2013 8:25 P.M. ET
Cubs improve with runners in scoring position
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- The Cubs have finally climbed above the Mendoza line when batting with runners in scoring position.
Chicago entered Tuesday's game batting .204 with RISP, still lowest in the Major Leagues. The team leads the National League with 87 doubles and 131 extra-base hits. But they rank 10th in runs scored.
"It's climbing," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said of the team's RISP average. "We're out of the hundreds and climbing towards .210 now. It is a cycle thing. Sometimes it's month to month and a team will hit .140, and then the next month, they'll hit .300 with men in scoring position.
"It's a cycle stat that hopefully everybody's bunched up at the end of the year and the really good offenses will be high," he said.
Garza nears return as Cubs near decision
CHICAGO -- Matt Garza's next rehab start is Thursday, and it could be his last, which will create a problem for the Cubs, who have a pretty good rotation right now.
Entering play on Tuesday, Chicago's starters ranked third in the National League with a 3.40 ERA behind the Cardinals and Nationals, and had posted 23 quality starts, with a 1.90 ERA in those games.
Garza, on the disabled list with a strained left lat sustained in a Spring Training workout on Feb. 17, will make his fourth Minor League rehab start on Thursday for Triple-A Iowa.
"I'm just going for the next one," Garza said Tuesday. "I'm looking forward to Thursday, and after Thursday, we'll make a decision. They want me to get stretched out and get deeper into games, and I guess that's what I have to do now."
He threw 66 pitches in his last outing for Double-A Tennessee, but it was over 3 1/3 innings. The Cubs want him to go deeper in the game.
"I've been throwing strikes, I've been working on things I need to work on," Garza said. "It's all piecing together. I feel fine and am excited about Thursday."
But who gets bumped when Garza is ready? Over the weekend, Cubs manager Dale Sveum said they weren't considering a six-man rotation. But on Monday, he said it could be a possibility.
"It's a tough decision, because everybody has pitched pretty well," Sveum said. "It's going to be one of those things that will be unfortunate for somebody, but it's a reality and it's going to happen."
Carlos Villanueva, who started Tuesday, has the most experience as a swingman.
"It might lean to who we're playing that series, the matchups," Sveum said. "Maybe you go to a six-man rotation for a week because of matchups. You never know what the bullpen is like. A lot of things come into play. We'll make that decision -- and I know you guys are going to keep asking this question every day. It's not going to change."
Travis Wood posted his eighth straight quality start on Monday, and has a 2.03 ERA. Scott Feldman has a 2.53 ERA in his seven starts, which include a complete-game win.
"I guess that's the best problem to have," Garza said. "I want to pitch. I'm not getting ready for no reason. The guys are doing great. I've got to really step into it and gear up for it. I'm excited to come back and champing. I'm not looking forward to anything past Thursday."
Does he have a say in the matter?
"I would say a lot, based on, it's my job," Garza said. "It comes down to what the organization wants to do. Obviously, we'll sit down and talk about it after the next outing. It's all based on how I respond and how I feel and how comfortable I am."
Valbuena expected back in lineup Wednesday
CHICAGO -- Third baseman Luis Valbuena was expected back in the Cubs' lineup on Wednesday, four days after spraining the little finger on his right hand when he slid into third base.
Valbuena, who injured his hand on Saturday in Washington, has been able to take batting practice and work out at third Monday and Tuesday. He spent part of Tuesday with his little finger in a cup of ice to get the swelling down.
"[He has to deal with] the pain tolerance and the discomfort that's going to be there for a while," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "It's the lingering soreness to the touch-type thing. It'll be manageable."
Valbuena was batting .272 in 31 games with five home runs, five doubles and 13 RBIs.
Hot Stove Cool Music concert on June 21
CHICAGO -- Theo Epstein, Len Kasper and Peter Gammons will host the second annual Hot Stove Cool Music Chicago benefit concert on June 21 at Wrigleyville's Metro. Epstein, the Cubs' president of baseball operations, will be joined on stage by Kasper, the Cubs' TV play by play man, and Gammons, a Hall of Fame-honored baseball writer -- as well as feature ensemble performances by headliner Poi Dog Pondering.
Also scheduled to perform are the Parkington Sisters, Brede Baldwin and Kay Hanley, the former vocalist for Letters to Cleo. Epstein, Kasper and Gammons will perform alongside The Hot Stove All-Stars, featuring Jesse Dee, Local H's Scott Lucas, Will Dailey, Jimmy Chamberlin and special guests.
Proceeds from the event will benefit Chicago Cubs Charities and Epstein's "Foundation To Be Named Later."
Tickets go on sale Saturday at noon CT at metrochicago.com and the Metro Box Office located at 3730 North Clark Street, Chicago. General admission tickets are $50, with no service fees for cash purchases. VIP tickets will also be available at www.ftbnl.org.
In addition to the all-star music lineup, the evening will feature a number of special guests and a live and silent auction with signed sports memorabilia and priceless entertainment experiences.
Hot Stove Cool Music was founded in 2000 by Gammons and former Boston Herald sports writer Jeff Horrigan. The biannual event has raised more than $5.5 million for Theo and Paul Epstein's Foundation To Be Named Later and the Jimmy Fund. Foundation To Be Named Later was founded in 2005 by Epstein and his brother Paul as a means to create positive opportunities for disadvantaged children and families.
Nonprofit partner beneficiaries include the One Fund Boston 2013, The Chicago Children's Choir, City Year Chicago, Girls in the Game, Family Reach Foundation, Chicago Wapiti RFC, Late Night Peace Basketball League and Garfield Park Little League.
• Arodys Vizcaino, coming back from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, will continue his rehab with the Cubs, rather than in Mesa, Ariz.
Vizcaino joined the team on Monday. Sveum said the right-hander, acquired from the Braves last July in the Paul Maholm deal, was a couple weeks away from appearing in a game.
Scott Baker, who also is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery one year ago, remained in Mesa at the Cubs' facility.
• Cubs top prospect Jorge Soler was named Florida State League Player of the Week. In four games with Class A Daytona, he was 7-for-15 with three doubles, a triple, two home runs, four RBIs and scored five runs. He has reached base in 10 consecutive games.
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.