8/2/2014 7:48 P.M. ET
Villanueva eager to help Cubs improve
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
LOS ANGELES -- Just because the Trade Deadline has passed, doesn't mean players cannot move, and Cubs pitcher Carlos Villanueva knows that.
Players placed on waivers can be claimed after the July 31 deadline. Teams still needing another arm in the bullpen could call.
"Me and a couple guys who have been around for a while understand it's still a possibility," Villanueva said Saturday. "The young guys don't need to worry about it because they don't want to get rid of inexpensive talent."
Villanueva, 30, will be a free agent after this season, so why wouldn't the Cubs try to get something for him? Of course, he'd like to stay.
"Why wouldn't I? I've grinded it out for two years here," he said. "I've been here for the tough times, and I want to be here for the good times, too. It'll give me a lot of chances to talk smack with some purpose. I've been here through those bad times. I think I'd be entitled to talk some smack.
"It all depends on how they evaluate you [in the front office]," he said. "They might see a value in me, and they might see me as being replaceable. I can't control it, and it doesn't offend me either."
Villanueva is hoping he provides value to the Cubs as more than an arm, but also a mentor to the young relievers.
"I understand where my place is on a team like this," he said. "I understand if I chose to help, I can be a big help to these guys. I know where I am at this place in my career. That's why it would be really special to win with a team like this. We're stepped on so much by everybody. It'd be nice to be able to win, and stand up and say, 'Talk now.' I can speak that way now because I have a Cubs uniform on."
He's well aware the Cubs are looking for young prospects. Villanueva was a young pitcher included in a deal in 2004 between the Giants and Brewers.
"If I can help them nab a young guy like me when I got traded when I was in Rookie Ball and nobody thought much of me -- look at me," he said. "I've been at it for nine years. I can't believe it either."
Villanueva was so lightly thought of, one of the general managers couldn't remember the pitcher's name when talking about the deal. Villanueva can laugh about it now.
"I didn't expect him to know my name," he said. "Everybody on the Giants threw hard, and I came here, and I threw the same as I throw now. I don't think they expected much from me. The Brewers, Blue Jays and Cubbies have gotten something from me."
Alcantara will get a break from leadoff role
LOS ANGELES -- Arismendy Alcantara led off for the seventh time on Saturday, and has been inserted into that spot since Emilio Bonifacio was traded. But Cubs manager Rick Renteria will likely give the rookie a break from that role.
Alcantara is batting .179 as the leadoff man with a .207 on-base percentage, and batting .269 in the No. 2 spot.
"We might keep doing what we were doing before when we had [Chris] Coghlan leading off and Mendy second," Renteria said Saturday. "We might do that to give Mendy a different look. We'll keep mixing and matching throughout the season."
Alcantara led off at Triple-A Iowa and is used to the role. But this is the big leagues.
"We've put him in a situation at the Major League level to lead off, and it's not an easy thing to do," Renteria said. "He's holding his own and battling in his at-bats. I think by putting him in the two-hole every now and then it'll give him a chance to take a breath and step back rather than try to grind out that first at-bat of the ballgame."
Bonifacio batted first in 63 games while with the Cubs before he was traded to the Braves on Thursday.
• Kyuji Fujikawa will reach the end of his rehab time Tuesday, and was scheduled to throw one more inning Monday for Triple-A Iowa. The right-hander, who is coming back from Tommy John surgery, has been healthy but the velocity has been down.
Whether Fujikawa will be activated on Tuesday has not been determined.
"We're still evaluating where he's at," Renteria said Saturday.
• Starlin Castro doesn't want to miss a game, and Renteria knows that. But he may try to give the shortstop a breather now that Chris Valaika is on the team. Valaika played shortstop, second, third and first at Iowa before he was added to the 25-man roster on Friday.
"He does give us a little bit of versatility," Renteria said of Valaika.
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.