MILWAUKEE -- Nate Schierholtz has set career highs in at-bats, hits, doubles, home runs and RBIs this season, his first year with the Cubs. It is also the first time he has had regular at-bats, and he said he expected to produce.
"It's really the first time I've played consistently, especially against righties," he said. "For me, they should be career highs, and they should be the best I've done. I feel like I can do a lot better than I've done so far, especially the last couple months. Hopefully, moving on, I can stay healthy for a whole year."
Schierholtz has been bothered since late June with a sore right shoulder. He received a cortisone shot at that time, which alleviated some of the discomfort.
"This has been a learning experience for me playing more over the course of the year," he said. "I feel like I would approach certain things differently. It's been a little bit of a grind. I'm just trying to stick with it and play hard every day. It's been a rough second half."
The left-handed hitter batted .269 in the first half, compared with .224 since the All-Star break entering Wednesday's game against the Cubs. He has been one of the Cubs' most consistent hitters with runners in scoring position.
"It's a rough game over 162 games," he said. "It's been nice for me to be able to play a lot and come to the field knowing I'll be in the lineup. It's been different for me. I definitely appreciate the opportunity."
Sveum anticipates evaluations on horizon
MILWAUKEE -- On Tuesday, Theo Epstein said Dale Sveum was being evaluated just like the players, and he would not say whether Sveum would return as the Cubs' manager. Sveum said Wednesday he understood the process and expected to know his future once the regular season ended.
"We've been in good communication through all this, and I understand that they go through what they have to go through on their end as far as the evaluation of myself and the coaching staff," Sveum said Wednesday about conversations he has had with Epstein, president of baseball operations. "That's basically where we are. It's the same as last year, and it'll always go on. That's the way it is."
The Cubs lost 101 games in Sveum's first year at the helm and have now lost 88 with 11 to go. Did Sveum feel he was safe for next year?
"I would hope to think so," he said. "I've been around the game long enough to understand how the whole process works. I've been happy with the way we've done things. Some things haven't gone too well, and some things have gone really well. I'm happy with my coaching staff and all that. That's up to [the front office], and they're the bosses, and they make those decisions and they have all kinds of things to evaluate."
Among the criteria Epstein said he was using to evaluate Sveum was the development of young players like Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo. Both have struggled this season.
"We all are accountable for people's production," Sveum said. "Obviously, they haven't had too good a season. On the other hand, it's only Rizzo's second season, and we seem to forget that a lot of times. This kid came up last year on top of the world, coming from Triple-A, and fell right in and was living on electricity last year.
"This year, he's putting too much pressure on himself for whatever reason," Sveum said of the first baseman, who was batting .227 with 22 home runs and 75 RBIs entering Wednesday. "This is a grueling season, and it's a grueling thing to be in the third hole in the Chicago Cubs' lineup in Chicago. Those are things that are learning experiences that go on.
"Castro has already been there and done that as far as two, three good seasons in a row, but Castro is really swinging the bat like he can [now], and going down the stretch, he's figured some things out and is doing really well right now."
Epstein did say the Cubs' staff may have tried to change Castro too much. The shortstop began the season with a career .297 average but was batting .243 this year.
"It's about trying to see pitches and walk more," Sveum said. "It's a fine line. You take somebody's aggressiveness away and you lose the ability to hit. Some people can do it, but that way of hitting isn't made for everybody. Some people are very good that way, and other people, you grow into it a little bit.
"Since we put him in the one hole and told him not to worry about swinging at the first pitch or anything like that and just be you, he's done pretty well," Sveum said of Castro, who was batting .262 leading off, and .286 on the road trip.
Epstein met with Sveum on Tuesday to go over the players, and the coaching staff was expected to meet Sept. 30 in Chicago after the regular season ends.
• This season, only lefty James Russell and Rule 5 pick Hector Rondon have been in the Cubs' bullpen for the entire season. There was plenty of turnover, which manager Dale Sveum said he would like to avoid next year.
"You've got to start with the bullpen," Sveum said when asked what areas need to be addressed. "Going into that first game next year in Pittsburgh, [we need] to have seven bonafide guys in the bullpen who can shut the door on any given night with power arms and left-handers and hard sinker-ballers. I think that's the first thing you have to address.
"You're going to have to fill some spots here and there and also what happens with the Mike Olts of the world," he said of the third baseman, acquired from the Rangers in July. "All those kind of things come into play. We'll fill the needed spots when we have to get there."
One pitcher Epstein mentioned as a possible option at closer was Kevin Gregg, who took over the job after being released by the Dodgers in April. Gregg has totaled 30 saves for the third time in his career, and the right-hander said he would like to return.
"From my side, there's nothing I can do at this point," said Gregg, who will be a free agent. "We'll wait for any conversation they have and go from there."
• Third baseman Donnie Murphy was pulled from Tuesday's game with a sore left wrist, and his status is day to day.
• Jeff Samardzija reached 200 innings and 200 strikeouts for the first time in his career Tuesday. Travis Wood has 192 innings with two more starts to go.
"It's a huge, huge milestone for anybody to get 200 [innings] and 200 [strikeouts]," Sveum said. "Woody is on the verge of 200 innings as well. You take a lot of pride in that. It's the individuals who have done it. It's because of their performance and getting deep in games. They're the ones who have done it and made the adjustments and still need to make the adjustments to get better and better."
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.