7/28/2013 4:49 P.M. ET
Sveum sees closer potential in reliever Strop
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- After Pedro Strop escaped a bases-loaded jam in the eighth inning Saturday night by striking out the Giants' Hunter Pence, he celebrated with an exuberant fist pump. That's something many closers do, and Strop may be in line for the job.
Kevin Gregg's name has been mentioned in trade rumors, and the Cubs' closer, who picked up his 21st save Saturday, could be headed to a team looking for late-inning help in the stretch run. The Cubs acquired Strop from the Orioles on July 2 in the Scott Feldman deal.
"He's a guy who hasn't really closed but he's pitched in high-level games," manager Dale Sveum said Sunday. "Last night, you can't substitute that kind of stuff and a power breaking ball."
Strop has three saves in 15 career opportunities. In 2012, he struggled in the role, going 3-for-10 in save situations. The right-hander does seem to have the personality for the job.
"I think he has a lot of fun, and with his stuff and his makeup, from what I've seen, he's a guy who can handle that situation," Sveum said.
Cubs' Rusin got early advice from Maddux
SAN FRANCISCO -- In 2010, when Chris Rusin was pitching for Class A Daytona, Greg Maddux was on the Cubs' staff as a consultant. Part of Maddux's duties included making stops at the Cubs' Minor League affiliates for a few days.
Rusin found himself sitting in the dugout next to Maddux for a game and took advantage of the opportunity.
"I only asked him one thing and it was how he gets the same two-seam movement on both sides of the plate and he gave me an example," Rusin said Sunday of the conversation. "He said if you're going to pick up a ball and throw it at a pole in front of you, you're going to line up and throw it at the pole.
"He said if you're going to throw a ball at a pole 20 feet to the right, you're going to pick up the ball and aim it at the pole 20 feet to the right. He said it's the same thing on the mound. If you want to throw your two-seam on the right side of the plate and have the same movement on the left side of the plate, you angle your foot a little bit to where you're more lined up with the right side of the plate. A little adjustment moves your body to throw to the target. That's what I've been working on is getting the same movement on both sides of the plate."
Maddux's strengths included being able to locate pitches and having movement on those pitches. Rusin relies on movement, too, and in his seven shutout innings against the Giants on Saturday, none of his pitches topped 90 mph. But he's no Maddux.
"[Maddux] relied on movement and he obviously has way more movement than I do, but he could locate everything on both sides of the plate, Rusin said.
Saturday was close.
"I just threw down what [catcher Dioner] Navarro called," Rusin said. "I hit the spot and got good results."
The lefty also opened some eyes.
"Performance is everything in this game," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "Usually, if you perform, you don't lose your job. He's changed a lot of minds moving forward."
• Scott Baker, rehabbing from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, will make his fourth Minor League start Monday, moving up to Class A Daytona.
Baker gave up three runs on five hits over three innings in his third rehab start for Class A Kane County last Wednesday. In three outings with Kane County, he's been charged with 13 runs on 17 hits and six walks over 8 2/3 innings.
• The Cubs escaped having the bases loaded in both the eighth and ninth innings Saturday. Did they practice plays with the infield in?
"You don't spend a lot of time on those drills but it's one of those things that doesn't come up too often," Sveum said. "You're talking about in the history of the game, it's probably happened about 10 times where you bring the infield in with the bases loaded in the last two innings and get three balls you can throw home and throw to first. These are things that happen so rare."
Sveum said he felt "fortunate" to get the Giants' Buster Posey to hit into a fielder's choice for the first out of the eighth.
"It was a nine-pitch at-bat against that kind of stuff [from Strop], and to make that quality of a fastball and get in on him, I don't think that game would be won or tied if we kept the ball away from [Posey]," Sveum said.
The Cubs held on for a 1-0 victory.
• Kyle Hendricks gave up one earned run on six hits over seven innings in Double-A Tennessee's 6-3 win over Huntsville on Saturday. Hendricks picked up his 10th win and has a 0.73 ERA with 32 strikeouts in his last six starts, giving up three earned runs over 37 innings.
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.