8/11/2013 1:38 P.M. ET
McDonald brings bench depth, mentorship to Cubs
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- Darnell McDonald, called up from Triple-A Iowa on Saturday, has one job now that he's back in the big leagues.
"I'll be ready when my name's called, that's what my job is," McDonald said Sunday.
The outfielder will be used against left-handed pitching, and also off the bench. In 96 games at Iowa, he was batting .236, but he's hitting .333 since the Triple-A All-Star break, including 10-for-25 in August.
He's been passed over as the Cubs have promoted outfielders Dave Sappelt, Julio Borbon and Brian Bogusevic.
"I just love playing baseball," said McDonald, who has played for the Orioles, Twins, Reds, Red Sox and Yankees. "Everybody wants to be in the big leagues. I just worry about going out and playing. I'm happy to be here now. There's obviously been a lot of transactions, but you just have to put your head down and worry about going to the field and preparing yourself."
One thing McDonald, 35, has been is a mentor to some of the other players.
"When you play 17 years, you learn a lot of things along the way, things young players go through, especially in the Minor Leagues," said McDonald, who was drafted by the Orioles in the first round in 1997. "For me, if I can help anybody and impart any little wisdom to help someone's career for them to fulfill their dream to play in the big leagues, that's what I'm here for. They make it fun for me. They keep me young, keep you going. It's been fun being in this organization."
Did he ever wonder if he'd get an opportunity to play in the big leagues again?
"I just put my faith in the man upstairs, go out and try to play the game hard," he said. "Every game could be your last game and that's how I try to approach every day."
Strop could be in closing mix for 2014
ST. LOUIS -- Could Pedro Strop be the Cubs' closer in 2014?
The right-hander appears to be one of the options, although manager Dale Sveum said it's a little early to commit.
"He seems to be able to handle the eighth inning just fine," Sveum said Sunday. "[Naming the closer next year] is a long way away. Hopefully, you have seven closers out there."
Kevin Gregg, who picked up his 25th save on Saturday, is only signed for this season, while Strop, acquired from the Orioles in the Scott Feldman deal, will be arbitration eligible. This season, he's 0-for-3 in save situations with the Cubs, but has a 2.65 ERA. He began his time with the Cubs with 12 scoreless appearances over 10 2/3 innings.
Gregg survived getting hit by a line drive off the back of his right shoulder in the ninth on Saturday. Sveum said he'll use Strop in save situations in case Gregg isn't available this year.
"There's no plans to put [Strop] there just to see him," Sveum said.
The Cubs do hope Kyuji Fujikawa can help in the bullpen next year, but he's coming back from Tommy John surgery and most likely wouldn't be available until after the All-Star break.
Cubs miffed by opponents' altered rotations
ST. LOUIS -- The Cubs may be a sub-.500 team, but they didn't take kindly to having both the Dodgers and the Cardinals alter their rotations against Chicago to save their aces for upcoming series.
The Dodgers moved Zack Greinke so he could face the Cardinals, who skipped Adam Wainright on Saturday, so he could face the Pirates this week. That got the Cubs a little riled up.
"You take anything like that personal," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said Sunday. "Obviously, they're doing what they need to be doing, being in the pennant race. But the guys in that locker room take it to heart. They're saying we're not a very good team and we're going to get by you with this guy or that guy. It's the competitive nature in anybody to take that to heart."
The Cubs got the last word on Saturday, beating the Cardinals, 6-5. Wainwright will start Tuesday against the Pirates, and could face the Cubs next Sunday at Wrigley Field.
Barney holds Sveum's confidence in late at-bats
ST. LOUIS -- If you're one of the fans who has been clamoring for Dale Sveum to pinch-hit for Darwin Barney, the Cubs manager has heard you. And he's not going to do it.
"It's hard for me to ever [pinch-hit for him] because the guy gives you a battle up there and he'll put the ball in play in situations," Sveum said Sunday of the second baseman. "He's gotten some big hits for us. He's just a guy who you know is going to battle and [against a pitcher with] velocity, he'll put it in play and give you a great at-bat."
Barney entered Sunday's game against the Cardinals batting .212 overall, but he's hitting .255 with runners in scoring position with two outs, and .278 in close and late situations. On Saturday, he delivered a game-tying two-run double with two outs in the eighth, and then scored on pinch-hitter Dioner Navarro's RBI double.
"It's not like [Barney] is a major power, RBI guy," Sveum said, "but when you're in situations, there are certain guys you like up there because they're better in situations. All you need is for the ball to hit the outfield grass and that's why you stick with guys like that. You don't need something huge, just to have the ball hit the outfield grass."
It's been a tough year for Barney, who batted .276 in 2011. Sveum worked with Barney in Arizona in the offseason for a few days, but the manager said on Sunday that the second baseman "didn't really stick with that too much."
Now, the Cubs are hoping Barney and others can wrap up the season on a good note.
"You'd like everybody to finish strong for the team's sake, for their own sake, for their own sanity sometimes going into the winter," Sveum said. "There's that saying, it's not how you start, it's how you finish, and that's true in a lot of situations."
• Bogusevic, on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring, played his second game with the Cubs' Rookie League team in Arizona on Saturday. He has yet to play in the field, sticking at designated hitter.
Sveum said Bogusevic still needs to test his hamstring and show he can sprint for a ball in the gap before he can be activated.
"We're still a little ways away," Sveum said.
• Brooks Raley threw eight shutout innings in Triple-A Iowa's 3-0 win Saturday night over Fresno. Raley gave up two hits, a leadoff single in the first and another single in the seventh, and walked two while striking out three.
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.