2013 Outlook: Baker looking for return to form

CHICAGO -- Scott Baker made his final rehab start with Class A Kane County on Monday. What's next for the Cubs right-hander? They're not sure.

Baker has been rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, and he would like to pitch in a Cubs game this season. The Minor League season ends for Kane County and Triple-A Iowa on Monday, and the Cubs have three Minor League teams in the playoffs.

On Monday against Peoria, Baker served up hits to the first three batters he faced, including a two-run homer to Nick Martini. The right-hander was pulled after giving up two runs on six hits over 5 2/3 innings, striking out four. He did not walk any of the 23 batters faced.

Although Baker has been a starter, Cubs manager Dale Sveum said Monday that if the right-hander were added, he'd pitch out of the bullpen.

"If anything right now, if we do activate him here, he'd just be a long guy," Sveum said. "There's no plans to have him start or anything, unless there comes a point where we feel somebody needs a five-day break instead of four days. Right now, that's all wait and see."

Baker went five innings in his previous outing for Kane County, giving up one hit. He retired 13 of the first 14 batters he faced.

Murphy in awe of former teammate Stanton's power

WSH@CHC: Murphy's two-run homer ties it in the ninth

CHICAGO -- Donnie Murphy played for the Marlins last season and got to watch Giancarlo Stanton in batting practice on a regular basis. It was ridiculous, Murphy said.

"It's one of those things where you hear how much power a guy has, but until you see it in person, you don't actually see how unbelievable his power is," said Murphy, now with the Cubs. "In San Francisco last year, he hit a ball into the glove [behind the seats] in left field. A fan who has been going there for I don't know how many years said he'd never seen that. It feels like a Little League field to him, that's how strong he is."

Early arrivals for the Cubs' games this week against the Marlins can watch Stanton aim at the bleachers and beyond.

"The first round of batting practice, he likes to go the other way," Murphy said. "His other way is to play catch with the guy in the bleachers in right-center. That's ridiculous. He's a specimen."

Did Murphy learn anything from watching or talking to Stanton?

"He's a big powerful guy and I'm a little guy," Murphy said. "He can mishit balls and they still go out. I have to hit balls and they go out. He's on his own level when it comes to power and it's fun to watch him hit."

That may be true, but Murphy led the Cubs in August with eight home runs.

"I laugh at it," Murphy said. "I wasn't expecting it. I wish we had won more ballgames. It was good to put up power numbers like that. Getting to play every day and do that, it was personally very fulfilling."

The eight home runs in 24 games is a career high for Murphy, whose previous best was six in 42 games in 2007 with the Athletics.

Cubs expect to expand roster by up to five players

CHICAGO -- The Cubs will add four or five more players from the Minor Leagues once their regular season ends on Monday, but manager Dale Sveum said he preferred to let Triple-A manager Marty Pevey tell the players.

"When you get called up, you want to be told by the manager, not the press," Sveum said.

Catcher J.C. Boscan, who was called up briefly, was expected to be on the list, as well as left-handed pitcher Brooks Raley. For most of the season, Sveum's only lefty in the bullpen has been James Russell, and he's totaled 70 appearances.

"It's nice to have two lefties," Sveum said. "You can do a lot of things, but that other lefty has to be a guy who can go through an inning and get right-handed hitters out, otherwise, you'll murder your bullpen if you have two specialists there."

Double-A Tennessee, Class A Daytona and short-season Boise all reached the playoffs.

"One thing you try to do in the Minors is not only produce players, but produce winning players," Sveum said. "Having those guys go through things where you win all the time, win championships, be in the playoffs, be down the last two weeks -- even if they don't get in the playoffs, but understand how important every game is and every pitch and every out, that's very valuable when you get to the big leagues as well."