LOS ANGELES -- The Cubs went 6-4 immediately following the All-Star break, then won just eight of the next 29 games. A lot of the struggle has been because of roster turnover prior to the Trade Deadline, but there's also been a recurring theme.
"It's one thing if you have a horrible pitching staff and can't hold teams down, but all year, we've had a lot more quality starts than we did at this time last year," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said, "and the bullpen isn't as close to being as bad as it was last year.
"You hate to keep bringing it up, because the players hear it, but the bottom line is when you bat .220 with men in scoring position, those close games, you can't add on, and you get people out there and lose by two, lose by one," Sveum said of the Cubs, who have the worst average with RISP in baseball.
"Those cyber people don't say it's a big stat, but it is a big stat," he said of batting average with runners in scoring position. "It's timely hitting that will end up winning a lot of games for you."
Still, losing two of the starting pitchers in Scott Feldman and Matt Garza plus losing Alfonso Soriano, who was traded to the Yankees, and David DeJesus has made it tough.
"It's not a mystery that things get a little haywire after the trades, but we know the process and we'll reap the rewards next year or the year after that," Sveum said.
At Phils' helm, Ryno set for Wrigley return
LOS ANGELES -- On Friday, Ryne Sandberg will return to Wrigley Field as interim manager of the Phillies. The Hall of Fame second baseman played 15 seasons with the Cubs, and he made it no secret that he wanted to manage the team.
What kind of response does Cubs manager Dale Sveum feel Sandberg will get?
"I'm sure he'll get a standing ovation," Sveum said. "This guy is in the Hall of Fame. He's arguably the best second baseman to play the game, and he did it all in Chicago. It'll be a nice moment for him to come back, after getting his first job, and a couple weeks after he gets it, he comes to Chicago for the first time."
Sveum spent most of his playing career with the Brewers and thought about possibly managing there, but he was passed over as well. He also managed in the Minor Leagues, but Sveum wasn't a Hall of Fame player.
"I only did it in Double-A for three years, which is a perfect level to manage at," Sveum said. "Guys are past the core development, so you have decent players and you're dealing more with men than kids. And they're hungry to get to the big leagues, and most people in Double-A have a shot at a cup of coffee in the big leagues. That's what you try to do as a Minor League manager is get every player a cup of coffee."
So Sveum, like Sandberg, rode the buses, caught the early flights and ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the clubhouse.
"It's impressive that somebody who had those credentials [like Sandberg] would want to stay in the game and go back to the Minor Leagues and teach and progress and get accustomed to managing, especially to the National League part of managing, and obviously get an opportunity to do it," Sveum said.
A lot of players say they want to manage or coach, but once they get into player development, they realize how much of a commitment it is.
"Some guys have had great careers, but they find out [what it takes], it turns into a 24/7 job -- it's not for everybody," Sveum said.
"You're in your own little world as a player," he said. "At the end [of my playing career], I started asking a lot of questions of Jim Leyland and really paying attention to the game itself. When you're a player, you worry about your four at-bats and not making a fool out of yourself."
Did it take long for Sveum to get over not getting the Brewers' job?
"I don't think it's tough to get over," Sveum said. "It's just part of the game, and you understand the business part and how lucky it is to get one of these jobs. There's luck involved. There's a circulation of managers being let go. There's only 30 of these jobs, and for newcomers to get one, it's hard to do.
"It's not easy to put $100 million to $200 million payrolls together and hand them to somebody who's never done it before," he said. "You keep plugging along and doing your thing, and if it happens, it happens."
Cubs taking swings against cream of the crop
LOS ANGELES -- The Cubs got a breather Wednesday, when they didn't have to face a Cy Young Award-winning pitcher. That break won't last long.
The Cubs are in a stretch in which they will play Cy Young Award winners in four of five games. It started with the Dodgers' Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw, and it will continue Friday when they face Roy Halladay. Cliff Lee starts Saturday.
Cubs manager Dale Sveum said pitching this year is much better than years past.
"The velocity in the game is as good as I've seen," he said. "There are plenty of left-handers coming out of the bullpen who are not specialists or side armers, but they're throwing 97, 98, 99 mph. The velocity from starters is way up from what I remember on a consistent basis."
But it's not just velocity that makes the difference.
"They have all this computer stuff, and they can pitch to weaknesses," Sveum said. "Twenty years ago, nobody knew what a guy's weakness really was. Now it's blatant, right on the computer and, 'If you throw this, he's out. If you execute your game plan and execute that pitch, he's out.' It says so on the video."
• Outfielder Ryan Sweeney was 2-for-5 with a double and one RBIs in his third rehab game with the Cubs' Rookie League team in Mesa, Ariz., on Tuesday. Third baseman Luis Valbuena went 2-for-3 with a double and one RBIs in his first rehab game, also with Mesa.
Both Sweeney (fractured rib) and Valbuena (strained oblique) were expected to be activated when rosters expand on Sunday.
• Right-hander Kyler Burke combined with two other pitchers on a seven-inning no-hitter Tuesday for Class A Daytona. Burke, a converted outfielder, threw five innings. Kris Bryant hit a double and has now hit safely in 11 of his first 12 games with Daytona.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.