CHICAGO -- Cubs manager Dale Sveum was rarely an everyday player during his 12-year playing career, so he's well aware of the difficulties bench players face.
That's why he's been impressed by outfielder Reed Johnson.
Johnson, who started in center field for the Cubs on Saturday against the D-backs, has a .302/.352/.450 slash line with three home runs this season in 65 games, only 29 of which have been starts.
The 35-year-old is also hitting .478 (11-for-23) as a pinch-hitter, with his 11 pinch-hits leading the Majors.
"I had to do it, and it's one of the hardest things to do -- to play off the bench," Sveum said. "It's hard enough to hit every day when you're playing, let alone off the bench once a week, twice a week, pinch-hitting.
"He's just one of [those] guys, another guy that comes to work every day at an older age that tries to make himself a better player every day. That's what you appreciate from guys, is no matter what they've accomplished or how old they are or how much money, is they're still coming to the park to make themselves a better player every day."
Hoyer starting to field trade inquiries
CHICAGO -- Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said on Saturday his phone lines are starting to ring as Major League Baseball's July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline approaches.
"Yeah, we've had quite a few [calls]," Hoyer said. "A lot of teams [are] just checking with everybody, so you get a lot of those. You'll talk to every team, just to see what they're doing, what they're thinking."
The Cubs figure to continue to receive numerous calls because of their valuable trade chips -- like right-handers Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza, outfielder Alfonso Soriano, and possibly outfielder/first baseman Bryan LaHair and catcher Geovany Soto.
There is also a new wrinkle this year with the second Wild Card team, which Hoyer said he hasn't yet seen the effect of when fielding calls.
"When you look at the standings now, it's so jumbled," Hoyer said. "If you're a .500 team in the American League, you're a couple games out of the second Wild Card [spot].
"Sort of like the Draft [slot system], we'll see how that plays out at the Deadline and we'll see how that plays out in August. But, again, it's really jumbled. It's definitely keeping a lot of teams in the race, which is the intended purpose."
Because so many players figure to be available, it's questionable as to how different the Cubs will look come Aug. 1. Hoyer said he wouldn't put a number on how many players the team is looking to deal, but said the organization will, as always, be looking for a balance in its short- and long-term goals.
"You kind of look at each individual case and see if it's someone who can help the organization," Hoyer said. "We're not going to focus on numbers or how it mixes up. We're going to field a team that we're proud of after July 31 and that's important, as well."
First Draft under new regime a success
CHICAGO -- The Cubs' first Draft under the new regime of president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, general manager Jed Hoyer and vice president of scouting and player development Jason McLeod was a success, with Chicago signing its first 20 picks and 29 selections overall.
But, Hoyer said, it's only the beginning of what the Cubs hope will be a run of solid Draft classes.
"It's not about one Draft," Hoyer said. "It's about having a lot of really good Drafts -- and deep Drafts. But, it's nice to have the first one and get a lot signed."
Hoyer, who spoke to the media prior to Saturday's game against the D-backs, said most of the contracts were signed last week, well ahead of Friday's deadline. Of the 29 signees, 17 were pitchers, some of whom Hoyer said wouldn't debut until next year because of their workloads at their previous level.
This year also marked the first Draft with the slot system implemented under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Hoyer admitted going through the new system for the first time was a learning experience, but was also enjoyable.
"Anytime you do something new and have to think about the strategy involved, it's always an intellectual challenge and probably something we all enjoyed," Hoyer said. "But it was certainly a learning process, and I think we'll take what we learned this year and go forward for next year."
Sveum's demeanor vital to Cubs' winning
CHICAGO -- During the Cubs' struggles in April and May, president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer supported first-year manager Dale Sveum.
Now that the Cubs are on a roll -- entering Saturday afternoon's game against the D-backs as winners of 10 of their last 14 games -- that certainly hasn't changed.
"When a team is struggling for a month and a half or so, it's hard to stay upbeat and be the same person. But he did a great job of staying the same person," Hoyer said. "Our success over the past couple weeks, [is] a result of that and I think that bodes really well for the future. ... We really like what we've seen from Dale, and with [his] demeanor, I think that will serve us really well going forward."
Outfielder Brett Jackson and third baseman Josh Vitters, the club's No. 2 and No. 10 prospects, according to MLB.com, are likely to get called up later on this season. But it's not a given, Hoyer said.
"Those guys need to force the issue, I would say," Hoyer said. "Like we talked about with [Anthony] Rizzo, when they sort of really prove to us that they're ready and make it clear, then I think that's something we'll see.
"We really wanted to make that a precedent, of when a prospect like that really bangs on the door, they get up here. Not hopefully because of an injury or hopefully because we want to give them a taste of it, you want it to be because they really earned it."
Jackson entered Saturday hitting .259 with 12 home runs and 10 triples, with Vitters hitting .304 with 13 homers and 50 RBIs.