CHICAGO -- The Cubs' bullpen has had several personnel changes, but one thing will stay the same and that is Kevin Gregg as closer.
Gregg took over for Kyuji Fujikawa, who had replaced Carlos Marmol after the first week of the regular season. Gregg is 6-for-6 in save opportunities since he joined the Cubs on April 16. Could Marmol get the job back?
"To be honest, I hope not," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "It's not taking anything away from [Marmol] -- he's pitched good in what he's doing, but it would mean Gregg's not doing a very good job, and he's done a great job."
Fujikawa is no longer a factor. He was placed on the disabled list Monday because of a right elbow strain and will undergo Tommy John surgery.
Gregg, who allowed a run in the ninth inning of Thursday's 8-3 win over the White Sox, may do so well that he draws interest at the July 31 Trade Deadline.
"Right now, we're worried about today and I'm not worried about what happens at the Trade Deadline," Sveum said. "You can't do that."
Putnam replaces Burnett in bullpen
CHICAGO -- The Cubs shuffled their bullpen Thursday, promoting right-hander Zach Putnam from Triple-A Iowa and optioning right-hander Alex Burnett to the Minor League team.
To make room on the 40-man roster, Kyuji Fujikawa, who needs Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, was transferred to the 60-day disabled list.
Putnam was 1-1 with four saves and a 3.26 ERA in 17 games with Iowa. He had 22 strikeouts over 19 1/3 innings. The right-hander, whom the Cubs claimed off waivers from the Rockies, was one of the last players cut in Spring Training. He appeared in 11 Cactus League games and gave up four runs on 14 hits over 10 innings while striking out six.
Putnam was a little surprised at the call, and caught an early morning flight from Nashville, Tenn., to get to Wrigley Field in time for Thursday's afternoon game against the White Sox.
"I feel I've been throwing well in Iowa," he said. "I didn't know they were ready to make a move this soon but, obviously, I'm thrilled.
"I had a pretty good spring and was obviously disappointed when I couldn't break camp with the team," he said. "You have to keep on keeping on and I felt I started the season pretty well in Triple-A, so I'm happy to be up here."
He and Blake Parker were sharing the closer's role at Iowa.
"I've always loved pitching in the back of the bullpen," said Putnam, who retired the lone batter he faced in the seventh inning of Thursday's 8-3 win.
Burnett was claimed off waivers from the Orioles on Monday and made his first appearance Wednesday, giving up one hit in one inning against the White Sox.
"These waiver claims, it's being able to get arms in the organization and going from there," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said.
Samardzija supports Blackhawks, loses shootout
CHICAGO -- Jeff Samardzija may have beaten the White Sox on Monday, but he lost to Paul Konerko in a shootout between periods of Wednesday's Blackhawks playoff game.
Samardzija joined some of his teammates at Game 7 between the Blackhawks and Red Wings, which Chicago won in overtime, 2-1.
"That was fun to go to a game like that, Game 7, and have it go into overtime," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "To have that goal taken away [because of a penalty] was a little upsetting but, thank God, they ended up winning. It all worked out."
Samardzija wore a Bob Probert No. 24 Blackhawks jersey. He was a big fan of the forward, who was known as an enforcer.
"He's one of the guys I remember growing up," Samardzija said. "I used to watch the games with my dad. I don't think my dad was the best stick handler or skater either, and he had his buddies on the team and they were goal scorers. You breathe on them the wrong way, and I think [my dad's] job was to go straighten them out. I think that's why he liked Probert which is why I like Probert."
Between the second and third period, Samardzija and Konerko took part in a shootout. The Cubs pitcher missed all three shots. Konerko did much better.
"I was walking down there and they told me Paulie was shooting the puck," Samardzija said. "I said, 'He's going to make me feel like an idiot.' It's the first time I've been on the ice with a packed house."
The Cubs pitcher knows who's the better hockey player among the two of them.
"He knows where [he is on] the totem pole on that," Samardzija said. "He's up top. He's got a nice little wrister there. I was trying to finesse it."
The Cubs have been very supportive of the Blackhawks. Former coach Denis Savard sang during the seventh-inning stretch on Wednesday at Wrigley Field.
"It was exciting and tons of fun," Samardzija said about being at the game. "We'd been to a few games the last couple years. We kind of knew what to expect, but that was Game 7 against Nashville. Game 7 against Detroit is totally different. It's cool to be that close to the ice and see the communication that goes on between the teams and the goalies and the defensemen."
The Blackhawks may want to keep Samardzija and Konerko on call.
"I have a whole year to get ready for my next one," Samardzija said. "They won, so if they have another Game 7, I'm pretty sure me and Paulie have to shoot the puck again at the second intermission."
Matt Garza, Edwin Jackson and James Russell joined Samardzija and Sveum at the game at the United Center. They saw how excited Chicago fans can be when the team is successful. Samardzija feels that buzz now for the Cubs-White Sox series.
"To be honest with you, we haven't had that many games where guys can see what the Chicago fans and big games are like," Samardzija said. "They're totally different when you're playing big games and everyone's coming out and fighting for tickets and there's a madhouse in the streets. It's a different feel than when you're playing another team on a weekday here.
"To see that excitement and see how people react to situations and how bad they want to be at those games and how bad they want the playoff games, it makes you realize this stuff needs to happen now [with the Cubs] and as soon as possible."
• Dioner Navarro may have hit three home runs on Wednesday, but he was back on the bench Thursday. Navarro is the backup to catcher Welington Castillo, who was in the lineup.
"[Castillo's] becoming one of the better defensive catchers in the game as far as blocking," Sveum said. "We know he has the ability to throw guys out and he has great mechanics hitting. It's just a matter of the at-bats. That's all coming together. It's just a matter of getting the 500, 1,000 at-bats. The catching ability is obviously really close to being one of the elite catchers in the game."
Castillo went 2-for-4 in Thursday's victory.
• Right-handed reliever Michael Bowden cleared waivers and accepted an assignment to Triple-A Iowa. He had a 3.78 ERA over 16 2/3 innings for the Cubs this season before he was designated to make room on the roster for Matt Garza. Because he was outrighted before, Bowden, 26, had the right to elect free agency, but if he had done so, his contract would've been terminated.
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.