8/11/2014 7:54 P.M. ET
Valaika adding catching to defensive repertoire
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- Though Travis Wood bought a child-size Radio Flyer wagon to help utility man Chris Valaika carry all of his gloves, Valaika may need a wheelbarrow, as he's decided to add catching to his defensive repertoire.
When Valaika was promoted from Triple-A Iowa last week, Cubs coaches asked if he'd ever caught. Valaika has played first, second, third and short, and also some outfield, and takes four gloves to the field with him to prepare.
"The next day I told [coach Mike Borzello], 'If [catching] is something you want me to do, I want to work on it,'" Valaika said on Monday. "If it's something I can help with, or be the emergency guy -- for me personally, it's another feather in my cap. And [Borzello] is one of the best guys to learn from."
The Cubs had named Darwin Barney as their unofficial emergency catcher, and manager Rick Renteria has said that if pressed, he would use Luis Valbuena.
But Valaika was in the bullpen on Monday, working with Borzello.
"I'm into it," Valaika said. "It can give me a chance to stick around, be another resource. I can go out there and catch between innings so [John Baker] and [Welington Castillo] don't have to."
What about the wagon?
"Now I can put some catcher's gear in there," he said. "We're loading it up."
Patience promises to be a virtue for Baez
CHICAGO -- The Cubs are hoping that Javier Baez finds a happy medium at the plate.
In his half-dozen big league games, Baez has struck out 12 times in 29 at-bats, but what's encouraging is that he's shown more patience at the plate.
The Cardinals' Matt Carpenter leads the National League in pitches per plate appearance, with 4.36, and the Cubs' Luis Valbuena is third, with 4.17. So far, Baez is averaging 4.24.
"It's a process," manager Rick Renteria said on Monday of Baez, who was promoted last Tuesday from Triple-A Iowa. "A young man with the kind of explosive bat he has, if he puts the barrel on the baseball, he's going to do some damage."
In his first at-bat against the Rays on Saturday, Baez took six straight pitches and was called out on strikes. Renteria said that Baez most likely was looking for the right pitch to hit, and just happened to take six in a row.
"When you're talking about a young man's development, you're talking about finding a happy medium," Renteria said. "He's doing some searching, too. He's getting into the box -- 'Maybe I can pull back, get a little better pitch to hit.' That's all part of the process, too."
Alcantara working through growing pains
CHICAGO -- Javier Baez isn't the only Cubs rookie still adjusting to the big leagues. Arismendy Alcantara is going through some growing pains, too.
Alcantara went 9-for-23 in his first five games but entered Monday's series opener against the Brewers with seven hits in his last 39 at-bats.
"He's learning how big league pitchers are adjusting to him," manager Rick Renteria said. "I think they're attacking him in different ways. He's got the skill set to adjust.
"I'm not going to panic for him. He steps into the box feeling he's going to have good at-bats, which is what we want him to have. If his at-bats are solid, he'll have more positive results than not. He's learning. He doesn't seem to be overwhelmed. It's not like he's down.
"He goes in there every single time and tries to work a good at-bat and get on base or drive in a run and do what he can to help the club."
Alcantara already has a four-hit game under his belt, having gone 4-for-5 against the Reds on July 10 in his second big league game.
• Felix Doubront, acquired from the Red Sox on July 30 for a player to be named, will make his first rehab start for Triple-A Iowa on Tuesday. Doubront, 26, has been sidelined with a strained left calf. This season he went 2-3 with a 4.54 ERA in eight starts with the Red Sox, then was placed on the disabled list with a strained left shoulder. He pitched in relief upon his return, and in 17 appearances (10 starts) went 2-4 with a 6.07 ERA.
• Right-hander Brian Schlitter, placed on the DL on Sunday with inflammation in his right shoulder, will rehab at the Cubs' complex in Mesa, Ariz. Schlitter compiled a 2.98 ERA in 43 games before the All-Star break, but teams were batting .379 against him in 10 games after the break, and he had a 6.43 ERA in that stretch.
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.