8/23/2013 9:40 P.M. ET
Cubs' Murphy showing burst of power at plate
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
SAN DIEGO -- Donnie Murphy is on a hot streak.
The third baseman has eight home runs since Aug. 6, the most by a National League player in that stretch. His .839 slugging percentage led the Major Leagues.
"It's one of the hotter streaks that comes around in baseball, to hit eight home runs in 16 games and have a slugging percentage of [.839]," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "You ride it out and hope it continues. All this stuff, you're evaluating for next year and our needs and things like that. I think people forget how good a defense he's played over there. Right now, he's been an exceptional two-way player."
Murphy, 30, signed with the Cubs in April, and he spent most of the season with Triple-A Iowa, where he batted .265 and hit 12 home runs in 89 games.
His previous home run single-season high in the Majors was six, set in 2007 over 42 games with the Athletics. How do you explain the surge?
"He's been unfortunate to have a lot of injuries," Sveum said. "Injuries don't help anything. Getting the opportunity on an everyday basis, you have a kid with bat speed who can hit the ball over the fence in right-center field right-handed, you always sit back and wonder what happens if the guy was to get 650 plate appearances playing every day. Those things will happen when they stay healthy. A lot of times they just need the opportunity to do it."
Garza deal done: Cubs get mound prospect
SAN DIEGO -- The Cubs completed their July 22 deal with the Rangers on Friday, claiming right-hander Neil Ramirez off waivers and assigning him to Double-A Tennessee.
When the Cubs dealt Matt Garza to the Rangers last month, it was in exchange for right-handed pitcher C.J. Edwards, right-handed pitcher Justin Grimm, third baseman Mike Olt and either one or two players to be named. Ramirez was the player the Cubs had targeted, but he had some shoulder issues.
Ramirez was ranked 14th on the Rangers' Top 20 prospects list at the time. The right-hander was initially a supplemental first-round pick in 2007 and developed slowly. He had a huge breakout season in 2011 that saw him pitch at three levels, ending in Triple-A. That momentum didn't continue in 2012, as Ramirez was demoted to Double-A.
Ramirez has spent all of this season at Double-A and was leading the league in strikeouts at the time of the trade, though he had been struggling lately after a very strong first half. Still only 24, Ramirez has an intriguing combination of stuff and command, and if he can rediscover consistency, he has what it takes to be a mid-rotation starter.
Ramirez can command his fastball well and throws a deceptive changeup. He throws both a slider and a curve, with the former the better of the two breaking pitches.
The other players acquired in the Garza deal include Olt, who was batting .121 (12-for-99) in 28 games at Triple-A Iowa, with two home runs, two doubles and four RBIs. Olt was batting .213 in 65 games with Triple-A Round Rock before he was traded. He had vision problems that caused him to miss all of May. Olt batted .288 with 28 home runs and 82 RBIs at Frisco in 2012.
Edwards has a 1.84 ERA in four games with Class A Daytona, striking out 20 over 14 2/3 innings. He was 8-2 with a 1.83 ERA in 18 games with Hickory before he was dealt.
Grimm is 1-3 with a 5.46 ERA in six starts with Iowa, striking out 33 and walking 12 over 31 1/3 innings. He was 1-0 with a 1.59 ERA in one start at Round Rock before the deal.
Rizzo still batting second in opener vs. Padres
SAN DIEGO -- For the third straight game, Anthony Rizzo was batting second for the Cubs on Friday. How much longer does manager Dale Sveum plan to keep Rizzo there?
"I don't know," Sveum said, chuckling. "It worked for one day. I wasn't going to change it [Thursday], and I'm not going to judge what anybody did off [Stephen] Strasburg. We were fortunate to score four earned runs off him in nine innings."
On Wednesday, in Rizzo's first game batting second, he delivered two home runs and three RBIs. He followed that by going 0-for-6 Thursday, but four of his at-bats were against the Nationals' Strasburg.
Rizzo entered Friday's opener against the Padres batting .229 overall and .162 in August. Even more troubling, and one of the reasons he was moved up in the order, is that he was batting .173 with runners in scoring position.
"The average [is down] and obviously there are some problems with men in scoring position," Sveum said of the first baseman. "It's his first full year in the big leagues. Sometimes we forget about that. Obviously, he came up last year and did a nice job, but we forget this is his first full year with pressure on him.
"When his first full year gets done and it says 25 [home runs] and 80 [RBIs], there are a lot of players who have gone through this game and not had 25 and 80 in their first full season."
What Sveum hopes is that Rizzo and others who had a tough time against Strasburg and others do not take games like Thursday's too hard.
"Sometimes you run into pitchers, and we've run into all the better teams and all the better pitching staffs in the last two, three weeks," Sveum said. "This is the best pitching in baseball I've seen in my 30 years in baseball. These guys have to understand you have to tip your hat to 97 miles an hour and great breaking balls. It's not that easy."
• Cubs pitcher Scott Baker gave up one run over four innings for Class A Kane County in a rehab outing Friday.
Baker, in his second Minor League rehab stint this season coming back from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, gave up four hits, walked two and struck out three in his longest rehab outing. Beloit's Matt Olson accounted for the run, hitting a solo homer off Baker in the second.
Baker's rehab was moved to Kane County because the weather interfered with his starts at High A Daytona.
• Ryan Sweeney worked out at Petco Park on Friday before a scheduled rehab assignment Saturday with the Cubs' Rookie League team in Mesa.
Sweeney, sidelined since June 30 with fractured left ribs, was expected to join the Cubs in September.
Third baseman Luis Valbuena also was at the Cubs' facility in Mesa to start taking more batting practice there. However, he was not ready for games. Valbuena has been sidelined since Aug. 3 with a right oblique strain.
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.