CHC@SD: Valbuena knocks down grounder, fires for out

MILWAUKEE -- Cubs infielder Luis Valbuena did not start Sunday for the second straight game because of an abdominal injury, manager Rick Renteria said.

The injury was not serious to Valbuena, who batted .295 in May, and Renteria said he was more "tired and sore."

"It's more precautionary than anything," Renteria said.

From May 13-24, Valbuena had an eight-game hitting streak, matching his career high, and he batted .433 in that stretch.

Seeking 162 starts, Castro talks way into No. 54

CHC@MIL: Castro plates Lake on single to center

MILWAUKEE -- Anthony Rizzo got Friday off, and he came back and hit two home runs on Saturday. Even though Starlin Castro saw that, the shortstop didn't want a breather, and he was in the Cubs' lineup Sunday.

Castro is the only Cubs player to start all 54 games through Sunday, and he talked to manager Rick Renteria about keeping his streak alive when it became apparent Renteria was planning on sitting him.

"I told him, 'Just in case you want to give me a day off, I'm good, I don't need it,'" Castro said. "It's still early; my body is still good. I worked to get my body feeling good. I don't want a day off.

"When I need one, I'll tell him," Castro said. "I don't need one right now."

Renteria said the days off were more of a mental break. He was all right with Castro and his lobbying effort.

"It wasn't a very hard sell," Renteria said. "He's been doing fine. If we mutually find that guys are grinding, and especially the guys playing every single day, we can have a conversation. He's good to go."

Castro played 162 games in 2012, and he has said that's his goal this year. Renteria is aware of that.

"It doesn't mean that I'm not going to give him a day off sometime," Renteria said.

Past, future trades weigh on Villanueva

CHC@SD: Villanueva goes three innings for save

MILWAUKEE -- In 2012, the Cubs traded starting pitchers Ryan Dempster and Paul Maholm, and last July, starters Scott Feldman and Matt Garza were dealt.

Will Jason Hammel be next?

"He's very close to being like 'Feldy,'" Carlos Villanueva said of the personable Hammel. "He's been really easy to get along with. He's a guy who has stabilized our rotation. [Saturday] was a big game, and he went out there and did what he's been doing all year."

Hammel, who signed a one-year contract with the Cubs, has been asked about possibly being dealt since Spring Training, and he has done his best to deflect the discussion.

"What's happened here the last couple years, you can't help but wonder if you're going to be one of those guys, too," Villanueva said. "When they sign here, they know. They know the direction this team is going. If I'm him, I'd feel really good about what I've done.

"He really likes this team -- if he gets traded, he'll be helping out a lot," Villanueva said. "I'm sure he wants to stay here. It's hard to go somewhere new and fit in. The fact is we're at the point where this team is now, he might help more by bringing in a couple players."

Villanueva, who began the season in the Cubs' rotation and is now the long man in the bullpen, could also be moved by the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.

"It would be really hard for me if it happens," he said. "I've fallen in love with what the Cubs are; I relate to it a lot. I try not to think about it often because it would be a really sad day. If it happens, I hope it happens when I'm not on the field, so I'm not crying all over people when I have to say bye to people."

The players do talk about the possibility of being traded. Both Hammel and Villanueva have played for a few teams. They know the reality of baseball.

"He's like, 'I don't want to leave,' but there is a possibility he might, and he understands that," Villanueva said. "Guys who have been in the game, and been on multiple teams, know how that goes. In a perfect world, we could stay here and build around the young guys, and we could be part of the uprising of the team. That could still happen -- we're still here. While we're here, we're going ot make the most of it."

Baker takes trip down Bernie Brewer's slide

CHC@MIL: Baker lines an RBI single to right field

MILWAUKEE -- Early Sunday, before fans entered Miller Park or the Cubs had even stretched, John Baker and Justin Ruggiano got to slide down Bernie Brewer's slide.

"It was awesome," said Baker, the Cubs catcher. "If I played here, I would do it every day. It would remind you that you had two things of being a little kid -- going down slides at the playground and then playing baseball afterword. It'd be crazy."

Baker said that in addition to sliding, they learned about the person who was the inspiration for the team's mascot, Bernie Brewer. Ruggiano sent video of his trip down the slide to his son, who will most likely want to do it the next time the Cubs are in Milwaukee.

Next up on Baker's bucket list is a home run. Entering Sunday he had the most at-bats without a home run -- 430 -- among position players in the Major Leagues. He is quick to point out that he missed time in 2010 because he was hurt, and he didn't play much in 2011.

"I'm going to go deep eventually," he said. "It has to happen."

Baker does have 14 career home runs, and he last connected Sept. 4, 2009, against the Nationals.

Extra bases

• Castro has tried to help top prospect Javier Baez deal with the ups and downs of baseball, sending encouraging messages to the young shortstop.

Baez batted .172 in 15 games in April at Triple-A Iowa, and he hit .250 in 29 games in May.

"I told him to keep playing, it's still early," Castro said of his text messages to Baez. "'You're good. You can't get frustrated with 40 games, 50 games.'"

Castro said Baez seemed to be in a better place now. Manny Ramirez was expected to join Iowa soon as a player-coach, although it was uncertain when he would be with the Minor League team. Castro thought Ramirez could help the young players.

"He's good," Castro said. "He looks like he's crazy, but he's not. He works a lot. I talked to a lot of people who played with him, and he's crazy sometimes, but he works. He works a lot, and he's respected a lot."