8/31/2013 8:07 P.M. ET
Baker hopes to make impression on Cubs
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- Scott Baker will make his final Minor League rehab start on Monday for Class A Kane County. The right-hander, who is coming back from Tommy John surgery, hopes his next outing after that will be with the Cubs.
Baker's rehab was interrupted by rain, as the weather in Florida kept forcing games to be cancelled when he was scheduled to pitch for Class A Advanced Daytona.
"I'd never seen anything like it," he said.
Apparently, because of where the Daytona ballpark is located, and the tide, if there is more than 30 minutes of rain, the ballpark gets flooded. And it rained for three or four days in a row.
In his last outing for Kane County, he gave up one hit in five scoreless -- and dry -- innings.
"For me, it's just about making pitches, and I feel like I'm making pitches," Baker said on Saturday. "Some of the arm speed is starting to come back. I know that takes time. Just being a realist, it's a long time since I've pitched competitively. There's only one way to gain the arm speed and that's to pitch."
His goal is still to pitch for the Cubs in the final month of the regular season. His last big league outing came on Sept. 24, 2011, for the Twins.
"As long as I can make pitches, I think I can be competitive," Baker said.
He knows how many pitches and innings he needs to convince the Cubs front office that he's ready.
"I'm cutting it close, for sure," he said of the timing. "I feel if I can get to that six-inning, 90-pitch mark, then that puts me right in line to start a game at the Major League level. Of course, that decision is totally up to them. I really can't complain one bit, because things have been great, and they've taken good care of me and allowed me to take my time and made sure I'm just not healthy for the short term but for the long term."
Baker, who had the surgery in April 2012, signed a one year, $5.5 million contract with the Cubs last November, and had hoped to be pitching sooner than September. The final month involves evaluation, and Baker is ready.
"I know it hasn't worked out like anybody would've liked," he said of the season. "Nobody wants to be out there more than me pitching for these guys, and even if it's just a little bit, it's better than nothing.
"I understand there's a lot of things going on here, and there's guys getting looks," he said. "Obviously, the decision is up to them as to whether I'm part of the future or not. I'm doing the best I can and doing everything I humanly know how to get ready and do the best I can with this next month."
Cubs struggling to win at Wrigley
CHICAGO -- Home hasn't been too sweet for the Cubs.
They've played 67 games at home and 67 on the road entering Saturday's game against the Phillies, and the Cubs have a 25-42 record at Wrigley Field compared to 31-36 on the road.
"For whatever reason at home, I think we struggle late in innings as much as anything," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said on Saturday. "We struggle late in innings to score and add on, which is the big thing here. We seem to do that more on the road and add on runs.
"Is it random? Who knows?" Sveum said. "Last year, it was completely flip-flopped. It's hard to put a finger on it. Those are things you just don't understand, but there's no rhyme or reason to it."
For the season, the Cubs are batting .231 after the seventh inning in all games, home and road, which ranks 12th in the National League. They're batting .241 from the first through sixth innings, which is 13th in the NL. Chicago's pitching staff does have the worst ERA (4.44) in the NL from the seventh inning on.
The Cubs may be struggling at home, but they're averaging 33,155 fans at Wrigley, and Sveum says he appreciated the fans' patience.
"We have great fans, and right now, some understanding fans," he said. "With the young kids, and waiver wire pickups and trades, and losing [David] DeJesus and [Alfonso] Soriano offensively, I think there's some understanding. But at the same time, that understanding doesn't last too long either."
The Cubs won for only the fourth time in their last 21 home games on Saturday, earning a 4-3 decision over the Phillies in front of 36,410 at Wrigley.
Sweeney, Valbuena to make final rehab outings
CHICAGO -- Outfielder Ryan Sweeney stopped by Wrigley Field to pick up his gear. He hopes to be back on Sunday for the rest of the season.
Sweeney and third baseman Luis Valbuena are scheduled to make rehab outings on Saturday night for Class A Kane County. If all goes well, Sweeney, who has been sidelined since June 30 because of a left rib fracture, could be added on Sunday when rosters expand.
"He'll be back [on Sunday]," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said on Saturday about Sweeney. "It'll be good to have him back."
Valbuena, who has been out since Aug. 3, may need a little more time. Kane County's season ends on Monday.
"I'd like to have him back as well," Sveum said.
Sweeney was batting .295 when he was injured, while Valbuena was hitting .225, but had hit nine home runs and driven in 31.
The Cubs also may add a left-handed pitcher to the bullpen. James Russell has handled those duties by himself for the majority of the season.
September will be a key month to evaluate the Cubs players.
"I think the last month is priceless for some guys, especially some guys who had a tough struggle or whatever," Sveum said. "Other guys are being evaluated for next year. The adage of it's not how you start, it's how you finish, it helps the winter a lot. You don't want a bad September and then sit on that for the winter."
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.