Just because September has arrived doesn't mean there aren't things to play for on the Cubs.
Or that manager Dale Sveum and the front office won't be watching.
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The September call-up season has begun. Not only are auditions for 2013 well under way, but Sveum will be taking notes on how his team plays over the final month of the season even though the Cubs have been out of the playoff race for months.
"You can't predict the character of people and all that sometimes going down the stretch," Sveum said Saturday before the Cubs lost 5-2 to the San Francisco Giants. "You're hoping everybody, when they show up to the ballpark every day, whether it's September or not, that they're going to give everything they have.
"There's things to play for, especially on this team. There's positions to play for next year, vying for spots in the direction they want to take in their careers. So they better show up and play, no matter what month it is."
No doubt there will be changes in the off-season, given the Cubs' current record of 51-81. Players here now, especially those on the bubble, can make a positive impression.
"You can find out a lot about people," Sveum said. "Are they that guy that just grinds it out on a daily basis and on an at-bat basis, compared to caring that the season's ending? You come to play and beat somebody's butt every day. You don't know October is nearing."
That goes for bench players in addition to regulars. With the trade of outfielder Reed Johnson to the Braves at the end of July, at least one backup outfield spot figures to be open.
Dave Sappelt, who was called up Saturday, said he'd like a shot. The Cubs obtained Sappelt last Christmas from the Reds in the Sean Marshall trade. Despite struggling at Class AAA Iowa at times this year, Sappelt is only 25.
"My goal being up here, is whenever I play, I have to show I can come off the bench and hit, and hit lefties," Sappelt said. "I have to be consistent at that while I'm here. That could be my contribution for next year, fill in like a Reed Johnson. We have a couple guys going for that role. My goal is to prove I belong."
The September call-ups won't see a whole lot of regular playing time, but Sveum said he'll be looking for certain things.
"You see how they react to pinch hitting and see how they react to major-league pitching," he said. "I think that's the key to a lot of things, what kind of at-bats they're giving in the later innings against the better pitching in baseball. Everybody on this roster is and should be trying to leave somewhat of an impression for jobs next year.
"I think we've all been in that position as players, especially when you're not a superstar, that you're always trying to impress the manager, at least in this organization, to put in a good word and have a job the next season."
Sveum also said the younger players should watch and learn from the example of right fielder David DeJesus, whom he called "one of the more consistent players on an everyday basis that you will see in the big leagues."
DeJesus hit his seventh homer Saturday in the third inning. He also made a sliding catch at the line on Buster Posey's ball in the fifth. He said he would relish being an example.
"Definitely," he said. "I want to be the guy that they just see this guy working hard every day, putting the time in on and off the field and gives 100 percent on the field. Ultimately, that's all I care about in this game, is being a guy you can rely on every day."