CHICAGO -- The Cubs have used 12 different starting pitchers this season, tied for third-most in the National League, and set a club record by using 53 different players.
There's been a lot of on-the-job training, especially for the pitchers.
"Do we miss our core guys? Of course we do," Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio said Thursday of Ryan Dempster and Paul Maholm, who were traded, and Matt Garza, who has been sidelined with an injury since July 28. "I think, for the most part, the guys who we've filled in have improved. We'll never be satisfied with anything. These guys are getting a crash course in how to be Major League players."
Bosio has seen encouraging signs from young relievers such as Alberto Cabrera, Rafael Dolis and Jaye Chapman. Plus, they've had to work with young catchers Welington Castillo and Steve Clevenger.
"It seems like everything we're doing as an organization, it's a great learning experience," Bosio said, "but at the same time we want to be competitive and fight and win. The best way to develop is teach them how to win. Hands full? Yes. Eager guys? Yes. Learning on the job? Yes."
He's asked Garza, Jeff Samardzija and Travis Wood to take on extra duties, too.
"I've told Jeff and Woody and Matt this, that you guys are the veteran guys, you guys have to lead, you have to communicate, you have to take over that clubhouse and be that presence, whether you like it or not," Bosio said. "That's also a learning experience for them because they've never been in that position. There's a whole lot of learning going on right now."
Sveum baffled by consistent mental gaffes
CHICAGO -- With two outs in the sixth inning Wednesday night, Luis Valbuena hit an RBI double that pulled the Cubs within one run of the Reds. Valbuena was looking into left field after the hit and taking off his batting gloves. That's when Reds pitcher Mike Leake threw to second baseman Brandon Phillips, who tagged Valbuena.
The inning was over, the rally ended, and the Cubs eventually lost the game, 6-5, in 11 innings.
"It surprised me," Valbuena said of the play.
It was puzzling.
"It just seems we have one of these things every three, four days that are not even explainable," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said Thursday. "You obviously don't practice staying on the base when the pitcher isn't on the mound. They're things that just boggle your mind for Major League players who have played a lot of baseball, to be looking off into left field before the pitcher is on the mound.
"These things are unacceptable. Why these things happen drive you crazy as a manager. You have no rhyme or reason for things like that to happen."
Sveum will accept responsibility when a player misses a bunt or there's a breakdown in fundamentals. Wednesday's gaffe was all on Valbuena.
"I don't take anything to heart when a player gets picked off standing and gazing at the stars," Sveum said.
Valbuena was in the Cubs' lineup on Thursday.
"He feels as bad as anybody," Sveum said. "It's not one of those things where he was dogging it or anything like that. Why these brain farts happen, it's not something to bench somebody for. It's hard to fathom something like that happening, especially in a key moment of the ballgame. We had them on the ropes right there."
The Reds are battling for a postseason berth and the National League Central Division title. The Cubs players should be fighting for jobs for 2013, Sveum said.
"We don't have people here who are guaranteed jobs or anything like that," Sveum said. "That alone should be a motivating factor for stuff like that to not happen. You have to focus 300 pitches a game, nine innings, 10 innings, whatever it might be. You can never let your guard down. Those are things we're evaluating for people we want in this organization for when we get ready to win."
Do the players understand that?
"You better hope so, because it's their livelihood," Sveum said. "You're fighting to have a Major League job. If you're a rookie, you make $500,000. It's not a bad job to have. You better understand these things are being evaluated every single day."
Cubs to celebrate Kerry Wood on Sunday
CHICAGO -- The Cubs will celebrate recently retired pitcher Kerry Wood on Sunday at Wrigley Field in a pregame ceremony.
In addition to the ceremony, Wood will play catcher as his son, Justin, takes the mound to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Wood, his wife, Sarah, and their children, Justin, Katie and Charlie, will sing the seventh-inning stretch, and the Wood Family Foundation will be the beneficiary of the Chicago Cubs Charities 50/50 raffle.
The first 20,000 fans who enter the ballpark will receive a commemorative poster of Wood, courtesy of Advocate Health Care.
The Wood Family Foundation is a non-profit organization, founded in June 2011, which works to improve the lives of children in and around Chicago by raising funds and awareness for children's charities and the causes they support.
Wood pitched 12 of his 14 seasons with the Cubs and retired in May with the third-most strikeouts in Cubs history, with 1,470. He is the fourth pitcher in club history with 12 or more seasons with the franchise, joining Charlie Root (16 seasons), Guy Bush (12) and Rick Reuschel (12). Wood was one of 14 players in Cubs history to appear on four playoff teams.
Sveum extends well-wishes to counterpart Baker
CHICAGO -- Reds manager Dusty Baker remained in a Chicago hospital Thursday to undergo tests for an irregular heartbeat.
"It's a demanding job, there's no question about it," Chicago's Dale Sveum said about being a big league manager. "Whatever health issues we all have, you never take your health for granted. All our prayers go out to [Baker], and I hope everything's good for Dusty. He's a great guy, and the rest of this year will be important for him to be around and healthy."
Baker, who managed the Cubs from 2003-06, missed Thursday's game but is expected to join the team Friday in Cincinnati.
Will Sveum need some time to decompress after the season ends?
"I think we all have to kick back and just relax for a while and get away from it," Sveum said. "There will be that point when you start grinding all over again."
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.