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Hard schedule will put Cubs’ call-ups to test

Updated: August 17, 2014 9:58PM



Looking for a method to the madness of the Cubs’ sudden reversal on not rushing to call up Javy Baez after the trade deadline? How about in Arismendy Alcantara’s extended big-league stay, or in the hints that Jorge Soler could be the next touted prospect making a 2014 debut?

Then look at the rest of the Cubs’ schedule. For all the other reasons it might have made sense for ranking Class AAA hitters to play down the stretch, add the fact that the Cubs face a brutal gauntlet of almost nothing but playoff contenders the rest of the season.

‘‘That’s when you find out who can play and who can’t,’’ said rookie starter Kyle Hendricks, who faces the National League Central-leading Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday night in his sixth big-league start. ‘‘It’s a good measuring stick to see where we’re at and to see what the team needs going forward. This is a perfect time to have good teams coming in.’’

Starting with a 3-1 loss to the Brewers in the opener of a four-game series Monday, the Cubs’ final 46 games include 42 against teams that took winning records into the week — including 17 against division winners and 10 more against teams in wild-card contention.

‘‘Hopefully we’ll be able to rise to the occasion,’’ manager Rick Renteria said, suggesting there are benefits for a building team, especially for first-year players.

Starter Travis Wood is looking for his own strong finish to an up-and-down follow-up to last year’s All-Star season.

‘‘It’ll be nice to see every game mean something to everybody,’’ Wood said. ‘‘Not just the guys trying to get to the postseason on the other teams, but for us as a team, knowing that we are a good team and can move forward, with the young guys doing their thing.’’

Just how many starters will the Cubs feel they need to acquire this winter in addition to whichever frontline guy they go after?

That’s where Hendricks, Wood and Monday’s starter, Jake Arrieta, come in. Arrieta, who lowered his ERA to 2.77 with another 7 1/3 strong innings, looks like a top-two member of next year’s rotation, regardless of whether the Cubs can land former Boston Red Sox ace Jon Lester or anyone else.

Little else is firm in the pitching plans.

And who knows what the Cubs have, exactly, in some of their young hitters? They should get a better idea quickly.

On Monday, Baez doubled leading off the fourth against Brewers ace Yovani Gallardo. He also grounded out and lined to left against Gallardo and struck out against reliever Will Smith in the eighth.

Alcantara was hitless for the third straight game, taking a 4-for-34 skid (including 12 strikeouts) into Tuesday’s game against 14-game winner Wily Peralta.

But that’s the point.

This is why they’re here — to find out what they can do, to struggle and adjust, so they — and the team — know what’s needed when the real assembly begins next season.

Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com

Twitter: @GDubCub



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