Cubs satisfied with current healthy mix
Club quiet at deadline, but Wood's return will serve as big gain
CHICAGO -- Three years ago, the Cubs made headlines at the trade deadline when they acquired Nomar Garciaparra from the Boston Red Sox in a seven-player, three-team blockbuster deal.
There were no blockbusters on Tuesday. Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said he did consider a move for a bench player, but decided the team is set heading into the final two months of play.
"We would've liked to have done one thing that we thought we had a chance to augment the bench in a limited role, but I have a lot of faith in the guys we have," Hendry said Tuesday. "At the end of the day, the one deal we did pursue didn't get made, and that player didn't move."
Cubs manager Lou Piniella wasn't losing any sleep over the deal. Actually, he was pretty relaxed.
"I had a nice massage the last hour of the trading deadline, and I thought that was more important than watching where people went or didn't go," Piniella said of his weekly session.
The Cubs are confident in the way the season is going.
"We're comfortable with what we have," Piniella said. "Every team in baseball that's in contention is looking to improve somehow. But I think it's more curiosity to see what's out there.
"Some teams have done some nice things, like Atlanta adding a really nice bat at first base [in Mark Teixeira] and Philly just adding a pitcher [Kyle Lohse]," Piniella said. "We'll see what happens."
The Cubs actually will add a pitcher this week. Kerry Wood is expected to be activated either Thursday or Friday, depending on how his final Minor League rehab start Tuesday night goes for Double-A Tennessee. Adding the right-hander to the bullpen gives the Cubs experience plus a 90-plus-mph fastball.
"We get him on the roster and keep him healthy, it's like trading for a good reliever," Piniella said.
The Cubs got a head start on roster moves when they made a change at catcher and sent Michael Barrett to San Diego for Rob Bowen on June 20. Less than a month later, they tweaked that position again when the Cubs acquired veteran catcher Jason Kendall from Oakland for Bowen and Minor League pitcher Jerry Blevins on July 16.
Three days later, shortstop Cesar Izturis, who had lost the starting job to Ryan Theriot, was dealt to Pittsburgh for a player to be named later.
Theriot is an example of the Cubs' approach this season -- to look for help within the system. After spending more than $300 million this offseason, the Cubs have fine-tuned the roster by promoting youngsters like Mike Fontenot, Carlos Marmol and Sean Marshall. The kids are a big reason for the team's surge into contention.
"We've used our farm system very well," Piniella said. "For the most part, they've come up here and done a nice job. And they've been used. Our farm system has really helped us. It helped us in the bullpen, it helped us in the rotation, it helped us on the field. We're pleased."
Losing Daryle Ward has hurt. Ward injured his right calf July 20, and will likely be out at least one month. Instead of having a veteran left-handed bat like Ward, the Cubs will rely on the youngsters off the bench.
Piniella plans on rotating players like Matt Murton and Angel Pagan into the lineup to keep veterans Cliff Floyd and Jacque Jones fresh.
The Cubs headed into Tuesday's game against the Philadelphia Phillies 33-18 since June 3, the best record in the Major Leagues over that stretch. After being 8 1/2 games back on June 24, the Cubs now are one game behind the Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Central. What's made the difference? Good defense, players like Alfonso Soriano, Jones and Carlos Zambrano getting hot, contributions from the kids, and a stellar 5-1 July by Ted Lilly. They survived losing closer Ryan Dempster to injury, with Bob Howry filling in.
"We've got a nice blend here," Piniella said. "Are we entirely out of the woods? No. But we have a nice blend here of veterans who are really good players and young kids who add some enthusiasm and contribute to the equation. We just have to continue to play one at a time and see what happens."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.