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Baker and September for the Cubs

Scott Baker’s return to the mound today for the Cubs isn’t necessarily “an evaluation”, manager Dale Sveum said Sunday. But his performance against major league hitters in his first start since 2011 and how he feels afterward will dictate if he gets another start.

“There’s no way we would move anybody [in the rotation],” Sveum said. “We don’t have any days off [in the next 17 days], so we could go to a six-man type thing or give somebody a [day off].”

The Cubs have 20 games remaining after Sunday, including 13 against the three teams vying for the National League Central title in Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and St. Louis.

“You never want to be a spoiler, and there’s not really spoiling going on because all three of these teams are going to be in the playoffs,” Sveum said. “Cincinnati [where the Cubs play Monday to start an 11-game road trip] is getting hot and they’ve put themselves in the division race.”

The Cubs play three games in Cincinnati before four game in Pittsburgh. The road trip finishes in Milwaukee before the Cubs come home for the final homestand with three games againt NL West-leading Atlanta and three more against the Pirates.

The season ends with three games in St. Louis.

“It’s going to be fun with the atmosphere in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. You’re getting to that playoff-type atmosphere when you’re trying to win a division, and it’s going to be still possibly the same when we get to St. Louis,” Sveum said.

The atmosphere will be good for the Cubs as well, he said.

“It’s good for everybody to see and play in those atmospheres, too, because it’s different.”