CHICAGO -- A common belief throughout baseball is that there are two times players can't be truly judged: Spring Training and September.
Cubs manager Dale Sveum agrees with the first part of that sentiment. The second? Not so much.
"It's very difficult to judge Spring Training, but September's a whole other thing," Sveum said. "People say that and, yeah, there are times where somebody's facing a Double-A-, Triple-A-type pitcher. But for the most part they're still facing big league hitters and big league pitchers, so it is a time to evaluate."
Sveum believes the Cubs are learning things about their young players as they finish the season's final month. This weekend's series against the Cardinals is the perfect example.
The Cubs faced Chris Carpenter on Friday, Adam Wainwright on Saturday and were scheduled to face Kyle Lohse on Sunday. Carpenter has won a Cy Young Award, Wainwright has two top-three finishes and Lohse is 15-3 with a 2.71 ERA this season.
Plus, there's the Cardinals' bullpen. Although it wasn't at full strength Friday, late-inning relievers Mitchell Boggs and Jason Motte were expected to be available for the remainder of the series.
"When you're playing the contending teams that haven't dismantled or called up a lot of September callups, there's a lot of evaluating going on," Sveum said.
And despite giving younger players opportunities, the Cubs have continued to play hard. They fought back Friday, trailing by two runs and down to their last strike, before posting a 5-4 win in extra innings. Moments like those are ones Sveum said can't be replicated in the Cactus League.
"It's not just evaluating the final result; you're evaluating the ability to slow that part of the game down and see what kind of players can handle those situations," Sveum said. "Because when it's all said and done, when you're playing in September and October and everything's on the line, you want the players you can trust that don't sort of clam up in those situations."
Right side of Cubs infield could be golden in future
CHICAGO -- Darwin Barney already is making a case to supplant the Reds' Brandon Philips as the National League Gold Glove Award winner at second base. In a couple of years, Cubs manager Dale Sveum said he believes the Cubs could mirror Cincinnati in another way: having two Gold Glove Award winners on the right side of the infield.
Phillips and first baseman Joey Votto are the reigning NL Gold Glove Award winners at their respective positions. And while Barney and his 136-game errorless streak could threaten Phillips' hold on the award -- Phillips has won it three of the last four years -- Rizzo, a rookie, has little-to-no chance to do the same to Votto at first base this season.
But Sveum believes Rizzo's day is coming.
"No doubt about it," Sveum said. "Him and Barney work as hard as anybody on their defense. It'll pay off, and then as soon as he gets some time in this league, he should win some Gold Gloves."
Barney and Rizzo hooked up for a big play in Friday's 10th inning when the Cardinals' Matt Carpenter hit a grounder to the right side. Barney ranged to his left, spun and threw too quickly to first from behind the bag. The throw was wide and low to Rizzo's right, but the first baseman snagged it, fell to the ground and tagged the base with his foot. Chicago won, 5-4.
Barney said the play was, "unbelievable," and Sveum said Rizzo has proven to be a two-way player since his June promotion. Sveum said one reason Rizzo is able to impress defensively is because the rookie can slow down the game in key situations.
"He's a no-panic guy at first base. He does a great job," Sveum said. "He means a lot to the whole defense. He's only going to get better at that position.
"It's nice to know that we've got some guys in that infield who are going to be here a while that can catch the ball and swing the bats as well."
Cubs right-hander Matt Garza still hasn't thrown since being being put on the disabled list in early August with a right elbow stress reaction, and Sveum said Saturday there is no timetable for the right-hander to begin throwing. Sveum said they want to make sure Garza is completely healed, though the Cubs expect him to be ready for Spring Training.
Sveum hadn't heard the news about Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera, who asked to be taken out of consideration for the NL batting title after being suspended 50 games for testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance, until Saturday. Sveum was pleased with Cabrera's decision.
"He should take himself out, as far as I'm concerned," Sveum said. "It's a stand-up thing to do, to face the music so to speak, and stand up and do that.
All three of the Cubs' victories on their homestand entering Saturday have featured a pitcher earning his first win. Starter Chris Rusin did so Sept. 14 against Pittsburgh, Jeff Beliveau earned his in relief Sunday against the Reds, and Alberto Cabrera's scoreless 11th inning Friday against the Cardinals earned him the win.
Third baseman Luis Valbuena was out on Saturday and is day to day with right knee soreness.