7/29/2014 1:20 A.M. ET
Russell, Almora spark Tennessee's win
By Carrie Muskat and Teddy Cahill / MLB.com
Addison Russell and Albert Almora, the Cubs' No. 3 and 5 prospects, respectively, combined for eight hits and four runs on Monday, helping Double-A Tennessee defeat Birmingham, 11-8.
Both Russell and Almora went 4-for-6 with a double. Russell scored once and drove in a run, and Almora added three runs and two RBIs. It was the first four-hit game for either player since joining the Smokies.
The Cubs acquired Russell, ranked No. 7 on MLBPipeline.com's list of Top 100 Prospects, in the deal that sent Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the A's earlier this month. Although Russell struggled right after the trade, he has gotten hot in the last week. He has four multihit games in his last five and is hitting .303/.338/.579 with six home runs in 19 games as a member of the Cubs organization.
Almora, ranked No. 41 on the Top 100, began the season with Class A Advanced Daytona and was promoted last week. He had just one hit in his first four games before breaking out on Monday. Overall this season, he is hitting .279/.302/.396 with seven home runs in 94 games.
Fujikawa takes another step toward return
CHICAGO -- Right-handed reliever Kyuji Fujikawa may be getting closer to returning to the big leagues.
Fujikawa, on a rehab assignment at Triple-A Iowa, threw in back-to-back games on Saturday and Sunday as he tries to come back from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, which he underwent in June 2013.
"I can say he's responding well after his outing, and we'll continue to monitor and see where he's at," manager Rick Renteria said on Monday. "He's doing fine and feeling good."
In four games with Iowa, Fujikawa has given up seven hits and walked three while striking out 12 over 9 2/3 innings. Renteria said the reports say the velocity is good.
"Our concern is basically that he's comfortable and pain-free," Renteria said.
Fujikawa, who turned 34 on July 21, also appeared in four games for the Cubs' Rookie League team, and two for Class A Kane County as part of his rehab.
Renteria focused on current roster, not trades
CHICAGO -- The Cubs may have been busy the last two years at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, but the emphasis lately has been more on evaluating what the team already has.
The Cubs did deal Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the Athletics on July 4, and on Monday sent infielder Darwin Barney to the Dodgers. But last week, Theo Epstein, president of baseball operations, stressed that the Cubs are evaluating the current roster to see who to keep as the team moves ahead.
"When you have players who are working together over time, continuity does seem to help," manager Rick Renteria said. "You can't guarantee that change won't occur after the Trade Deadline. I wish I could tell you that I have a crystal ball and I know exactly what's going to happen, but I don't.
"I think the players we have continue to grow together. We've been together five months now. You get to know each other, and they build relationships. They're learning from each other. As long as they continue to move forward, we'll see what we have here."
Renteria said that his conversations with Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer focus more on how the current 25-man roster is doing, not about possible deals.
"I don't get into the possibilities or chances of any movement," he said. "I think I concern myself more with the guys we have and how we'll move forward in the next eight, nine weeks."
The players are aware of Thursday's 3 p.m. CT deadline.
"Everybody thinks [that] after they get three or four hits, they'll be the next guy traded out of here," catcher John Baker said. "I tend to laugh at that. I've been told I've been traded, I've been told I've been claimed off waivers, and it hasn't happened. The most important thing for us is, when the lights turn on and the baseball game starts, [we focus on] what happens between the lines."
Baker was Hammel's personal catcher and knows that it's tough to lose a teammate.
"Hopefully, we don't have anybody else leaving, so we don't have to be sad for a couple of days like we were with Darwin and Jeff and, especially for me, Jason," Baker said.
• Remember the Reds' Jackie Collum? How about Harry Perkowski? Ken Raffensberger? Fred Baczewski?
The Cubs faced those pitchers from Aug. 11-13, 1953, in a four-game series over three days, the last time they had to deal with four left-handed starters in a single four-game series until this week. On Monday the Cubs opened a four-game set against the Rockies, beginning with Yohan Flande, the first of four southpaws.
This is the first time the Cubs will face four straight lefties since Sept. 21-25, 2007, when they dealt with the Pirates' Paul Maholm, Zach Duke and Tom Gorzelanny, and the Marlins' Dontrelle Willis.
And this Rockies series may not be the end of it. On Friday the Cubs travel to Los Angeles, where they are scheduled to face lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. Teddy Cahill is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @tedcahill. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.