Jason Hammel knew his tenure with the rebuilding Chicago Cubs could be brief after signing a one-year contract in the offseason.
The possibility has only increased amid what could wind up being a career-best season.
With trade rumors swirling, Hammel takes the mound Monday night against the Miami Marlins looking to bounce back from a rare rough outing.
After giving up 10 hits in 14 scoreless innings over his previous two starts, Hammel (6-4, 2.81 ERA) allowed four runs and 11 hits in five innings of Wednesday's 4-2 loss to Pittsburgh. He allowed his first homer in nine outings and his opponents' batting average went above .200 for the first time this season to .213.
"Honestly, I thought I did a pretty good job for as many baserunners as I had," Hammel said. "You've just got to keep pitching, keep throwing strikes."
The right-hander hasn't won more than 10 games in his nine-year career and his ERA has been at least 4.33 seven times, but his emergence this season makes him a valuable trade chip for a team constantly looking for young prospects.
The 31-year-old is making $6 million this year, and Chicago reportedly has begun fielding offers for Hammel and fellow starter Jeff Samardzija. There's a strong possibility one or both will be dealt before the July 31 trade deadline.
Hammel, who says he's not letting the rumors distract him, had a solid outing against the Marlins at Wrigley Field on June 6 in the opener of a three-game series, striking out eight in seven scoreless innings of the Cubs' 5-3, 13-inning victory.
Chicago (28-39) won two games in that set, and it took three of four from the Marlins in its only visit to Miami last season.
The Cubs are coming off their first victory in 13 road series this season by taking two of three in Philadelphia following Sunday's 3-0 win. Anthony Rizzo homered and Starlin Castro had three hits for Chicago, which remains an MLB-worst 13-25 away from home.
"It's good to win a series on the road," Rizzo said. "We can take that into Miami with us."
The Marlins have one of the majors' best home records at 23-13, but they had lost six of their previous eight in Miami before Casey McGehee's 10th-inning sacrifice fly gave them a 3-2 win over Pittsburgh on Sunday.
McGehee tied the game in the eighth with a two-run double and finished with three hits for the Marlins (35-33), who snapped a three-game skid. The third baseman is hitting .419 during a 10-game hitting streak, and his 43 RBIs rank among the NL leaders.
"Casey has gotten some huge hits for us," manager Mike Redmond said. "I think he's grateful for the chance he has been given here, and he has made the most of it."
Tom Koehler takes the mound in this contest looking to bust out of his slump.
Koehler (5-5, 3.68) went 4-3 with a 2.25 ERA through his first nine starts, but he's 1-2 with a 7.25 ERA in his last four after allowing five runs and walking three in 5 1-3 innings of Miami's 8-5 loss to Texas on Tuesday.
The right-hander struck out seven and allowed one run through five innings, then allowed the first four hitters to reach in the sixth.
"I've got to do a better job when innings start to snowball like that of taking a deep breath and getting back to executing quality pitches," Koehler said.
His only start against the Cubs was Sept. 3, when he allowed two runs and walked three in 4 1-3 innings of the Marlins' 6-2 win.
The Associated Press News Service
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