CHICAGO -- Bryan LaHair, one of the Cubs' September callups, may have hit 38 homers at Triple-A Iowa and be able to play first base, but manager Mike Quade wants Carlos Pena in the lineup, and the veteran appreciates that.
"You got a guy driving toward 30 home runs, who has been a huge part of this ballclub, both on the field and off the field," Quade said of Pena, who had 28 homers and 79 RBIs entering Saturday. "We need him in the lineup to win ballgames, and he's been a big part of that this year."
Pena has hit at least 30 homers in three of the past four seasons, missing last year with the Rays when he finished with 28. Still, reaching 30 homers isn't a goal Pena voiced to Quade.
"That's not me," Pena said. "I'm more about, 'How many good at-bats can I put together? Let's put together good at-bats today; let's help the ballclub out' It's kind of cool that he's looking out for me. I respect that; that's awesome."
Pena signed a one-year, $10 million contract with the Cubs, and isn't sure where he'll be in 2012. Does he think about next season?
"I think about next year all the time, very casually, just because I think about the future," Pena said. "I spend a few minutes dreaming about the best scenarios and putting myself in them, and then I just let it go and come back to the present."
The Cubs aren't going to finish with a winning record this season, and though there are a lot of question marks for next year, Pena wants to return.
"I've said all along, I've enjoyed my time here in Chicago and love the opportunity that it presents to be part of the Cubs," Pena said, "and to be part of that team that does it is very alluring to me.
"Even though we haven't achieved what we want to this year, I feel like it's moving in the right direction. Just to be part of that means a lot to me."
Dempster hopes to return to Cubs in 2012
CHICAGO -- Ryan Dempster will start in the series finale on Sunday against the Astros. Could it be his last home start for the Cubs?
Dempster, who is expected to squeeze in two more starts on the last road trip, has a $14 million player option for 2012.
"I never even thought about that," Dempster said on Saturday. "I'm just trying to go out there and win a game tomorrow, and let all those things handle themselves."
The Cubs have a lot of decisions to make this offseason, such as selecting the next general manager. This is Dempster's eighth season, and he's gone from a rehabbing right-hander to the closer for three years to the rotation. He enters Sunday's game at 10-12 with a 4.66 ERA, with a 6-7 mark and a 3.53 ERA in his past 18 starts.
"As a player, you just want to see where everything's going and what direction they want to go and things like that, more than anything," Dempster said. "You know how much I love playing here. Hopefully, it's not just about staying here for next year, but staying past next year. I'll worry about what's on the field first."
Dempster received a four-year, $52 million contract from the Cubs in November 2008.
"There are a lot of factors that come into [the decision]," Dempster said. "I want to try to get win No. 11 [on Sunday] and go from there."
Samardzija could be moved to rotation in 2012
CHICAGO -- The Cubs will have openings in their rotation next season, and one option to be considered is Jeff Samardzija.
The right-hander, who was used strictly in relief this year, entered Saturday's game with a 1.88 ERA in 39 appearances since June 28. He's given up at least one earned run five times in that stretch.
"There's plenty of reasons for people to mull over that and think about that being a possibility," Cubs manager Mike Quade said. "It's not rocket science to say, 'Who do you think about? Do you think about [Sean] Marshall? Do you think about Samardzija?'"
One pitcher Quade would like to see in the rotation next year is Andrew Cashner. The right-hander won a spot this season, but made just one start, on April 5, before he had to be shut down with a strained right rotator cuff. Cashner is finishing up the season pitching out of the bullpen, and is still limited to one day on, two days off.
Who will be the Cubs' starting five in 2012? Carlos Zambrano's status is still to be determined, though he is not expected back. The Cubs have plenty of decisions to make.
"[Samardzija is a] big, strong guy. Could that be a possibility? Absolutely," Quade said. "Where are we going with Cash? There are so many things."
Quade knows Garza is still learning
CHICAGO -- Mike Quade said he hopes Matt Garza learned how much Carlos Lee likes hitting at Wrigley Field on Friday.
Garza decided to challenge Lee in the Astros' ninth inning on Friday, with two out and one on and the Cubs leading, 3-1. Lee hit a game-tying two-run homer, his second of the game and career 23rd at Wrigley Field.
"I love the gamesmanship," Quade said of Garza's approach, "but somewhere there has to be a balance between that and some intelligence. I hope he learned from that, and I think he did. His comment doesn't surprise me and it's an honest comment, and that's exactly what I thought sitting there. [I'm thinking his attitude was,] 'OK, pal, that home run you hit before -- I'm going to finish you here with my best fastball, and this thing will be over.'"
Garza shook off catcher Geovany Soto twice before throwing the fastball. Soto must have been thinking like Quade was.
"It doesn't mean you can't do that if you've got the right hitter up there," Quade said about Garza's approach. "If you've got a guy who is so vulnerable in and has a long swing and everything else, and if you leave one out over the plate, and that's the one he hits opposite field, OK. But otherwise, there's no margin for error, and it's just too dangerous."
The good news? The Cubs rallied to win, 4-3, in the 12th inning on Marlon Byrd's walk-off single.
Castro reaches base in 30th straight game
CHICAGO -- Starlin Castro, who doubled in the fifth inning on Saturday, has reached base safely in a career-high 30 straight games. He's the first Cubs shortstop to do that since Ernie Banks had a streak of 30 games in 1960.
"I know [Castro's] drive to 200 [hits] is exciting for him," Cubs manager Mike Quade said. "I knew he had a long string of reaching base; I didn't know it was up to 30.
"If you're in the same conversation as Ernie Banks, I don't know if I can embellish on that at all. [Castro] has done a great job offensively all year. It's really something to see a kid that young so accomplished at this point in his career."
Derrek Lee was the last Cubs player with a 30-plus streak, reaching safely in 31 consecutive games in 2009.
The double was hit No. 194 for Castro, tops in the National League. He is vying to become the youngest Cubs player ever to collect 200 hits in a single season.
The last Cubs batter to collect 200 hits was Juan Pierre, who had 204 in 2006.
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.