7/25/2013 9:07 P.M. ET
Castro's English lesson to Lake paying off
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
PHOENIX -- After Junior Lake's first four-hit game on Monday, he met with the media for the normal interview session. Lake was able to answer the majority of the questions in English.
Starlin Castro, who is three days older than Lake, 23, pressed his Dominican countryman to learn English.
"When I was in the Minor Leagues, I told him, 'You have to speak English at this level because you don't know who doesn't like you,'" Castro said. "If you have somebody [who] doesn't like you [is the interpreter], and [the media] asks a question, the other guy can say something different."
Castro got that advice from Oneri Fleita, who was the Cubs player development director for 12 seasons before he was dismissed in August 2012. Fleita is now a consultant for the Reds.
"One day, [Andres] Blanco translated for me," Castro said. "[Fleita] told me, 'I don't want to see you do that.' He said, 'You have to do interviews at this level by yourself.' I'm not scared to say anything. I watch TV and listen to English music."
Listening to English-language television shows and music supplemented the lessons given the Latin players in the Cubs system. Castro did take part in those but said it wasn't enough.
"You can say one word or two words, but [it doesn't teach how to have] a conversation," he said.
Castro, who made his Major League debut in May 2010, needed an interpreter early in his career. Now, he handles interview requests on his own.
"I'm not afraid to talk," he said. "If I say something bad, 'OK, how should I say that? How do I say that?' and I learn. When I text with my agent, I see how he texts me. I watch what he tells me, and I can write it, too."
Cubs prepare to fill void left by Soriano's pending trade
PHOENIX -- How do the Cubs fill the opening in the lineup with the pending departure of Alfonso Soriano?
"You say you're prepared for it, but I don't think you're really prepared to lose somebody of that nature," manager Dale Sveum said Thursday. "All the things he brings to a team, the fourth hole, the character, the clubhouse, the leadership and everything. You just don't replace that."
Soriano was pulled from Thursday's Cubs lineup against the D-backs at the request of president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, and appears to be headed to the Yankees.
Physically, Sveum said he'll mix and match in the outfield, using rookie Junior Lake as well as Cole Gillespie in left field. Brian Bogusevic, on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring, could return in early August.
The Cubs may decide to add a pitcher when they make a roster move rather than an outfielder because the bullpen has been overworked, and they have a doubleheader coming up on Tuesday.
Soriano, 37, was one of the few veterans in the clubhouse.
"You have [Kevin] Gregg, [David] DeJesus, and other than that, it's a lot of young guys," Sveum said. "With the addition of Lake, now we're getting pretty young."
The Cubs were busy at the Trade Deadline last year, and this season, have made six deals before July 31. The only players who were on the Chicago roster when Jim Hendry was the general manager are Starlin Castro, Darwin Barney, Welington Castillo and Jeff Samardzija.
The Cubs may find another left fielder, but can't replace Soriano's professionalism.
"You don't replace that," Sveum said. "Hopefully, down the road you do. You don't have a Band-aid right now to replace that kind of guy in your clubhouse."
Sveum mindful of Gregg's extensive work
PHOENIX -- Kevin Gregg could use a breather.
The Cubs closer won't say that, but manager Dale Sveum feels the right-hander might be a little tired this month. In nine games, he's given up seven runs on 12 hits and nine walks over 10 innings, and was six for eight in save opportunities.
"Overall, I've given up more [hits and walks] in the last month than prior, but it's inflated by one outing," Gregg said of his July 14 outing against the Cardinals when he gave up four runs in one inning.
"I look at [Wednesday], and I gave up three hits, and two were broken-bat hits," he said of an outing against the D-backs. "You have to roll with the punches a little bit. Some things just didn't go your way. Yesterday was one of those outings. It seems like I've had a couple of those. I didn't feel that bad, and didn't get the results I wanted."
One of the things that frustrated the Cubs about Carlos Marmol was the amount of players he walked. Sveum would like to see Gregg cut down on that.
"The walks have hurt him," Sveum said. "The fastball down is not quite as down as it was earlier. Because we play so many of these same games, and we're one swing away from tying the game, and he gets up. We've been winning games on the road and he's had to pitch, and [warm up in] tie games, so his arm has been used a lot. We have to find ways to give him some rest."
Gregg hasn't retired the side in order in any of his July outings. He'd converted his first 12 save opportunities.
"The first two months, a lot of things went my way and I got balls hit to people, and they weren't getting those seeing eye balls," Gregg said. "I should be in the middle of that, and the balance will come out over the full season."
Baker progressing slowly in rehab assignment
PHOENIX -- Cubs pitcher Scott Baker, rehabbing from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, hasn't shown much improvement after his third rehab start.
On Wednesday, Baker gave up three runs on five hits over three innings in his third rehab start for Class A Kane County.
"It was kind of like the other ones, not super sharp, not a lot coming out," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said Thursday. "He topped out at 88 [mph]. He's a little bit short right now."
The right-hander, who the Cubs hoped could pitch for the big league team this season, now has been charged with 13 runs on 17 hits and six walks over 8 2/3 innings in his three rehab starts.
Could Baker be hesitant to just let it go with his pitches?
"That's hard to say," Sveum said. "He's got that personality that he might not be letting it go yet. That comes with the territory. Sometimes just one, let it go, and it's like, 'OK, I'm all right.' It's a fine line, I'm sure, for guys who have had those kind of surgeries."
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.