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CUBS NOTES: Cubs confident headed into break

CHICAGO – While the Cubs aren’t a threat to contend for the playoffs, they have built momentum heading into the All-Star break.

Entering Sunday, the Cubs have won five of their past seven series as well as winning two series and splitting another in their past three series at Wrigley Field. A large part of the Cubs’ success has been the development of their bullpen, which was in shambles early this season.

“Right now, our bullpen is as functional as [I’ve seen since] I’ve been here to where you can mix and match,” manager Dale Sveum said.

Closer Kevin Gregg, who signed with the team two weeks into the season, has provided much needed stability in high-pressure, late-game situations. Gregg, 35, has a 1.95 ERA, surrendering seven earned runs in 31⅓ innings, with 17 saves.

“I think from the start of the year this group thought we could compete,” Gregg said. “We’ve had a lot of one-run losses, and we were on the wrong side of a lot of those early. We’ve gotten the bullpen kind of figured out, and I think that’s helped us keep those leads and allowed us to win a lot more games lately.”

Cubs designate Rodriguez for assignment: After only appearing in five games with the Cubs, right-hander Henry Rodriguez was designated for assignment before Sunday’s game against the Cardinals.

Rodriguez owned a 4.50 ERA with the Cubs, allowing six hits in four innings, while walking four and striking out only one batter after he was traded to the Cubs from Washington on June 11. The move was made to create a spot on the roster for outfielder Cole Gillespie, whom the Cubs claimed off waivers Saturday from the Giants. Gillespie, who will wear No. 2, was available off the bench Sunday.

“I feel like I can steal some bases, play solid defense,” Gillespie said. “I think I can do the little things good. … It’s been up and down the last few years. Hopefully, I get a pretty good opportunity here.”

Baker makes rehab start: Scott Baker moved another step closer to making his season debut with the Cubs.

Baker, who is working back from Tommy John surgery, took the loss for Class-A Kane County after allowing four runs – all in the first inning – on six hits in three innings. He also walked one and struck out two batters on 56 pitches.

“I didn’t get a pitching coach report or anything, that will come in later, but I think right now for him, it’s more of getting work in and getting comfortable,” Sveum said. “Understanding that when you have these things, sometimes you don’t want to let it go yet. I think [Sunday] was a big hump to pitch against hitters and getting in a real game.”

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