Kevin Gregg open to rejoining Cubs next year if traded
BY TONI GINNETTI firstname.lastname@example.org July 29, 2013 10:24PM
Brewers at Cubs
The facts: Game 1, 1:20 p.m., CSN, 720-AM; Game 2, 7:05 p.m., CSN, 720-AM.
The starters: Game 1, Yovani Gallardo (8-9, 4.88 ERA) vs. Carlos Villanueva (2-7, 4.23); Game 2, Tyler Thornburg (1-0, 2.95) vs. Jake Arrieta (1-2, 7.23 with Orioles).
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Updated: July 29, 2013 11:50PM
The Cubs have played winning baseball the last two months, and manager Dale Sveum doesn’t hesitate in giving his reason why.
‘‘If you put the pieces of the puzzle together . . . it’s Kevin Gregg,’’ he said of the team’s rejuvenated closer. ‘‘He’s done far and above anything that we expected and closed things out and won the games we were supposed to win.’’
And because he has been so good, he might soon be gone.
Gregg, 35, understands the circumstances at this point in a rebuilding season.
‘‘Unfortunately, it kind of has to be that way, but for the last couple months we’ve been playing really well,’’ he said Monday before the Cubs fell 5-0 to the visiting Milwaukee Brewers. ‘‘If things had played out differently in April, who knows where we would be at right now?’’
On the ritual of trades, Gregg said, ‘‘Baseball’s a long season. We have a 25-man roster, but it takes 40 or more guys to get through 162 [games]. So how are you going to put those things together and put the chess pieces on the board to be in the final group?’’
Gregg was the Cubs’ closer in 2009, but he has had more success since returning (22 saves and a 2.68 ERA now compared with 23 saves and a 4.72 ERA). He was good in the spring with the Los Angeles Dodgers but was cut because of a surplus of arms. He signed a minor-league contract with the Cubs on April 15, choosing a place he liked from before.
Should he be dealt this week, he said Monday he’d consider coming back again when he becomes a free agent after the season.
‘‘I would definitely consider it,’’ he said. ‘‘We’ll see where we’re at at the end of the year, and I’m sure I’ll have a conversation with [president] Theo [Epstein] after the year if I do get dealt. I like it here. I’ve really enjoyed my time here in Chicago. I like the organization. I like the coaching staff. I like the players. If you’re happy with everything, it’s a good place for you.’’
Gregg’s previous Cubs stint makes him a link to the pre-Epstein era. The only other is Samardzija, who was masterful Monday through seven innings, rebounding from a so-so start last week against the Arizona Diamondbacks. He allowed just three hits, striking out seven and walking two in his second consecutive no-decision.
The Brewers broke through in the ninth with five runs off Pedro Strop (1-1), who saw his streak of 12 scoreless appearances end.
‘‘[Samardzija] was pretty much completely dominating,’’ Sveum said. ‘‘He couldn’t do any better. But you have to score runs to win. That’s the bottom line.’’
Samardzija has felt good about keeping to a personal goal to stay consistent and strong through a season.
‘‘I like where I’m at,’’ he said. ‘‘I feel good physically, and I feel I’m improving as a pitcher.’’
The Cubs have not had talks with him about a contract extension, though indications are Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer would like to eventually.
Samardzija, who has two arbitration years left, is eager to listen.
‘‘I love being here,’’ he said last week. ‘‘I love the group we’ve assembled here. It’s exciting to play here every day.’’