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Despite Sveum’s message, Cubs’ veterans know what they need to do

Anthony Rizzo

Anthony Rizzo

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The facts: 7:05 p.m., CSN+, 720-AM.

The pitchers: Clayton Richard
(0-2, 7.94 ERA) vs. Jeff Samardzija (1-4, 3.03).


Tuesday: 7:05 p.m., Ch. 26,
720-AM. Edinson Volquez (1-3, 6.39) vs. Edwin Jackson (0-3, 4.76).

Wednesday: 7:05 p.m., CSN,
720-AM. Andrew Cashner (1-1, 3.26) vs. Scott Feldman (1-3, 3.92).

Thursday: 1:20 p.m., CSN,
720-AM. Eric Stults (2-2, 5.67)
vs. Travis Wood (2-1, 2.25).

Updated: May 30, 2013 3:16PM

MIAMI — The Cubs might have finished their road trip the way they started it — with another loss — but it’s a different-looking team that returns home from Miami than the one that got embarrassed in Milwaukee when the trip started.

Could it be that players responded to the message manager Dale Sveum sent through his ‘‘perform or get fired’’ rant in Milwaukee?

‘‘I don’t think so. I didn’t,’’ said right-hander Carlos Villanueva (1-1),
who suffered his first loss of the season Sunday, mostly because Giancarlo Stanton went 3-for-3 with two home runs, three runs scored and four RBI in the Marlins’ 6-4 victory. ‘‘I think I’m old enough to know what I have to do.

‘‘But certain messages are directed to certain players. We have younger guys, and the younger guys sometimes need a little wake-up call.’’

Younger guys such as shortstop Starlin Castro, who hasn’t committed an error since the Cubs’ six-guys-with-six-errors weekend against the Brewers.

Younger guys such as first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who homered twice Friday and reached base eight times in the last three games against his hometown Marlins.

Those two were the focus of
Sveum’s comments a week ago, but they certainly weren’t his only
intended targets.

‘‘Whenever you do anything like that, it either goes one way or the other,’’ Sveum said. ‘‘You never real-
ly know.’’

The one thing Sveum knows for sure, he said, is that ‘‘we’ve played better, made more plays. . . . The overall game now is obviously much better.’’

The more forgiving schedule hasn’t hurt, with the Cubs taking three of four games from the worst-in-baseball Marlins and opening a four-game home series Monday against the San Diego Padres in their weeklong round-robin tournament among last-place National League teams.

Whether they will be ready to step up after that against some better teams will have a lot to do with whether Rizzo can stay hot and whether cleanup man Alfonso Sori-
ano can knock in more than two runs a month going forward.

‘‘To win four of the last six after
starting the way we played in
Milwaukee, it was a nice little finish to the road trip,’’ Sveum said.
‘‘Obviously, we would have liked to finish it off. . . . But we played good. We’re still swinging the bats OK. [We’re] not scoring a ton of runs, but we’re in the game every night, that’s for sure.’’

So was Sveum’s message to his team received?

‘‘I think we police ourselves, and I think we have a good clubhouse here,’’ Villanueva said. ‘‘I know that we’re going to be all right. We’re real close. We’re bound to break out soon.’’

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