MILWAUKEE -- Based on the stingy performances of Jason Hammel and Jeff Samardzija in the first two months of the season, Rick Renteria's biggest test as manager of the Chicago Cubs could occur in the next two months.
That's because Hammel and Samardzija have enhanced their trade value, and Renteria will need to maintain a focused clubhouse with the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline approaching and playoff contenders and pretenders becoming more defined.
"I'll cross that bridge, if I have to cross that bridge, when I get to it," Renteria said Saturday before Hammel pitched seven shutout innings to help lead the Cubs to an 8-0 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers that snapped a three-game losing streak.
"The reality is we all know the club is made up of a lot of different players. And there are guys who are on the club who are special components of that team. I hope we're able to handle the adjustments and the changes that should occur, if they occur. Right now it would be premature for me to speculate."
Despite the Cubs (20-33) posting another losing month (11-16), Hammel has provided them with a confident feeling every time he takes the mound -- especially at Miller Park. Hammel (6-3) limited the Brewers to four hits and allowed only one runner to advance past first base in lowering his ERA to 2.78.
Hammel hasn't allowed a run while striking out 15 in 14 innings this season at Miller Park.
"I know my own value," said Hammel, who signed a one-year, $6 million contract in February. "And my value right here is for the Cubs. That's the way I see it.
"I'm not going to play into the whole trade talk. It is what it is. The only way you can't get traded in baseball is if you have a trade clause, and that's it. It can happen to anybody. I love it here. I just want to continue to pitch and compete like I have been."
Hammel showed no residual effects from a bone bruise on his right pitching hand suffered May 20. He walked none and struck out eight in a 110-pitch outing.
Hammel and Samardzija, who starts Sunday's series finale against Kyle Lohse, have demonstrated they can help a playoff contender in return for younger, cheaper pitching talent that the Cubs seek in any deal.
"(Hammel) is very calm ... very experienced," Renteria said. "He commands his emotions and stays meticulous in his preparation and attacks the hitters the way he wants to."
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