CHIC AGO -- The Chicago Cubs have used 15 rookies this season with eight making their major league debut, and even with rosters expanding in September there might not be many more added to that list.
The Cubs can take their roster to as high as 40 players once September rolls around (not that it ever gets nearly that many), but the big youth movement has already arrived with Anthony Rizzo being called up June 26 and Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters being added last weekend.
“Most of them are here, and you want them to play too,” manager Dale Sveum said. “You want them to always get their at-bats. You don’t want the September call-ups to not be able to play period. But yeah, we could have fewer. A lot of times September call-ups are to help the pitching staff out as well to where you don’t have to blow anybody out in September.”
That hints at the possibility of Jeff Samardzija having a reduced role over the final month. The first-time starter is already at 132 2/3 innings, the most he has ever thrown in a major league season.
Tony Campana, Casey Coleman and Rafael Dolis all could be called up next month, but all three of them have already had time with the big club this season. One interesting possibility would be infielder Junior Lake.
Lake, a right-handed hitter, is batting .288 at Double-A Tennessee, with a .309 batting average against right-handed pitching. As a shortstop he could give Starlin Castro some days off down the stretch while getting his big league debut out of the way at the same time.
September still figures to be important for guys like Jackson and Vitters, who aren’t guaranteed an Opening Day roster spot next season even though they are getting a chance now.
“I think we’re all in this, the development, taking a look-see at everything with the guys that are here,” Sveum said. “All kinds of things can happen during the winter. I don’t care who you are in this organization, we’re all doing a lot of evaluating right now and seeing what we’re going to need and who needs to develop more and those kind of things.”
The Cubs can’t just look at development over the last month and will still try to focus on winning for the integrity of the game. The Cubs aren’t close to being a contender, but with 15 September games against teams that came into play Friday either in first or second place, they could still have a say in pennant races.
“I think we’ve all been in situations when you are late in the season, especially when you get into September, and you’re playing teams that are vying for playoff spots," Sveum said. "You will do what you can to field the best team out there to beat those teams. You would always want that done if you were on the other end of things to help other teams out or to knock people out of playoffs. When you aren’t in the playoff race too those are some of the things you play for as a player.”