MILWAUKEE — Marlins catcher A.J. Ellis remains a focus for the Cubs as the non-waiver trade deadline (3 p.m. Monday) nears, a major-league source said Friday, confirming what two other sources said earlier in the week.
But while landing a veteran backup catcher for the stretch run is certainly one of the Cubs’ priorities, a reliable reliever might be just as important for a team with designs on making a third consecutive run deep into the postseason.
Left-handed or right-handed doesn’t seem to matter to manager Joe Maddon, who would welcome late-inning help as the front office works multiple fronts to try to add a second pitcher (after Jose Quintana) this month.
Cubs setup men C.J. Edwards and Pedro Strop rank among the top 20 in the National League in appearances (45 each), and the Cubs have two more relievers with at least 40.
‘‘The spread’s pretty good,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘But later on, [if] you want to win a lot, you’re going to wear bullpen guys out because that’s what happens when you’re winning games.
‘‘That’s what you would be looking for — that high-leverage, later-inning guy that you’re really comfortable with — so you can spread the work out a little bit more evenly.’’
The Cubs used their top two prospects (outfielder Eloy Jimenez and pitcher Dylan Cease) to acquire Quintana from the White Sox on July 13, emptying their system of the marquee prospects not already in the majors.
President Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer repeatedly have said they don’t want to trade from the big-league roster to add pitching at the deadline. That shouldn’t prevent a deal for a player such as Ellis, but it might make a deal for a pitcher go down to the final hours.
The Cubs have been linked to almost every attractive pitcher on a fast-moving reliever market, but a source with knowledge of the Cubs’ talks with the Marlins said the teams aren’t discussing a package deal to include a pitcher with Ellis.
‘‘If I had to bet, I would bet we’d do something,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘I don’t even know if it’s going to be an arm or not.’’
Back doesn’t slow Schwarber
Kyle Schwarber wore a large ice pack around the clubhouse before the Cubs’ loss Friday to the Brewers because of ‘‘a little bit of a stiff back the last couple of days,’’ Maddon said.
Schwarber wasn’t in the lineup against left-hander Brent Suter, but the batting order was made a couple of days before the game and had nothing to do with the back issue, Maddon said. Schwarber pinch-hit in the ninth inning and struck out with the tying run on third.
‘‘It didn’t bother him [Thursday],’’ Maddon said. ‘‘Kyle will be back out there [Saturday].’’
Schwarber hit two home runs and a triple Thursday against the White Sox. He’s 14-for-51 with five homers and a .990 OPS since a two-week demotion to the minors.
‘‘It’s just general soreness, nothing big,’’ Schwarber said. ‘‘It doesn’t bother me.’’
This and that
Quintana’s two-out single in the third inning was his first career hit. He was 0-for-29 with a walk before that.
• The Cubs allowed first-inning runs in 48 of their 88 games before the All-Star break (80 runs total), but they haven’t yielded any in 14 games since.
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