WASHINGTON -- One of the byproducts of the success of Cubs starters in the first month is that the club was able to ease reliever Hector Rondon into games.
Rondon, a Rule 5 Draft pick, is coming back from two elbow surgeries. On Friday and Saturday, he pitched in back-to-back games for the first time this season.
"I feel 100 percent and have my velocity," Rondon said Sunday. "Now I feel like everything is coming back."
The right-hander has pitched two innings in three of his 11 games, including Saturday against the Nationals.
"He's been bouncing back," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "It kind of all worked out real well, because our starters did such a great job in the first month that we were able to ease him into that role that he hadn't been able to do the last few years."
Navarro, Cubs draw inspiration from pink bats
WASHINGTON -- Dioner Navarro was loosening up in the clubhouse prior to Sunday's game with his pink Mother's Day bat.
"If I get two hits, I'm going to keep using it," the Cubs catcher said.
Don't be surprised if he tries to use it in his next game. Navarro did get two hits on Sunday to make his mother and wife proud. His first single in the sixth inning of the Cubs' 2-1 win Sunday was the first hit off Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez.
Cody Ransom didn't get a pink bat, and used Dave Sappelt's bright pink model on Sunday. It too was lucky, as he got two singles, as well. Sappelt had been sent down to Triple-A Iowa before his bats arrived.
Pink power ruled. Ransom used his regular bat in his first two plate appearances, and grounded out and struck out. He doesn't have a bat contract with Louisville Slugger, which has exclusive rights to the Mother's Day event with MLB. Ransom would've liked to have used a pink bat from his bat company, and he said he hoped his bat company understood.
"It's unfortunate that we can't use whatever we want," Ransom said. "I like to honor my mom, my wife, my grandma, breast cancer survivors everywhere and want to be able to do that and be able to wear the stuff I have to wear as part of my contract. I can't really do that. It's frustrating in a way, but it is what it is."
Some of the Cubs' coaches wore pink shoes, and nearly all of the players wore pink wristbands to raise awareness for breast cancer.
Outfielder Julio Borbon sent his mother greetings via Twitter: "Happy Mothers Day!!! Feliz Dia De Las Madres! Enjoy it and ask for whatever you want! It's your day! #MommasBoy"
Happy Mothers Day!!! Feliz Dia De Las Madres! Enjoy it and ask for whatever you want! It's your day! #MommasBoy- Julio Borbón (@JulioBorbon20) May 12, 2013
Some of the Cubs' top prospects also wished their mothers well on Twitter. Shawon Dunston Jr. said: "My mom is awesome. Love the support and motivation she gives me everyday. I am a momma's boy!! Love you mom. Big year coming up."
Dan Vogelbach, who is playing for Class A Kane County, said via Twitter: "Happy Mother's Day to the best mom in the world. Wouldn't be where I'm at today without you. Wish I could be with you today. #mamasboy."
Valbuena plays catch, available off bench in finale
WASHINGTON -- Cubs third baseman Luis Valbuena was able to play catch and hit in the batting cage on Sunday, one day after spraining the little finger on his right hand sliding into third base.
Valbuena was not in the lineup against Nationals lefty Gio Gonzalez, but he was available to pinch-hit, manager Dale Sveum said. Valbuena was not expected to go on the disabled list.
With one out in the fifth Saturday, Valbuena doubled to right but was tagged sliding into third trying to stretch his hit and jammed his hand on the bag.
X-rays showed no fracture, and Valbuena received treatment. He entered Sunday batting .272 with five home runs and 13 RBIs this season.
Garza to make at least one more rehab start
WASHINGTON -- Cubs pitcher Matt Garza will make at least one more Minor League rehab start, and possibly two, after his abbreviated Double-A outing on Saturday.
Garza gave up three hits and walked two over 3 1/3 innings for Tennessee in his third Minor League rehab start, throwing 66 pitches, 40 for strikes. He struck out two.
"He felt great and everything, but not real efficient," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said Sunday. "Right now, we have to get him built up to get to the fourth, fifth and hopefully sixth inning."
Garza, who will be in Chicago this week when the Cubs return for a three-game homestand against the Rockies, will make his next start for Triple-A Iowa.
When Garza is ready to return, it will be tough to eliminate one of the starters from the mix. Edwin Jackson is the only pitcher who has struggled, and he's not a candidate to move to the bullpen.
"It ain't going to be easy," Sveum said about moving one of the starters. "Part of it, sometimes, when you have these decisions ... it's a good problem to have, but for the individual, nobody deserves it. They're pitching perfectly fine. It isn't going to be the easiest thing to do."
Garza is working his way back from a strained left lat suffered in mid-February during live batting practice. The plan on Saturday was to have Garza throw 65-75 pitches. He needed 30 pitches to get through the first inning.
Hoyer hoping to see more complete effort
WASHINGTON -- Last year, the Cubs were sellers at the Trade Deadline, as general manager Jed Hoyer dealt veterans such as Ryan Dempster and Paul Maholm to acquire players for the future. The deals weren't enough to turn things around in 2013; it will take some time.
"The things we need to solve offensively are pretty clear," Hoyer said. "Our starting pitching has been good enough to be a contender. The bullpen has not been, defense has not been ... and the offense hasn't been."
Obviously, Hoyer would like to see the Cubs up in the standings to avoid another makeover.
"We don't want to be a seller -- that's not a position you want to be in," Hoyer said. "But if you are in that position, you want to take advantage of it. You hope you're looking to buy. It's a lot more fun."
Hoyer said he feels there's still time for the Cubs to get on track. Manager Dale Sveum agrees.
"We've lost so many games we've had control over," Sveum said Sunday. "We know this record could be flip-flopped with a little better play, because the pitching has kept us in so many games."
The Cubs have 21 quality starts, yet have won only eight of those games. Thirty-three of their 36 games have been decided by four runs or less, and 28 have been decided by three runs or less.
However, the Cubs are in rebuilding mode, and Sveum knows what that means.
"You know things like that are possible and you weigh all the options and what's best for the organization," Sveum said. "Those are things you have to do sometimes. It's not that easy to see Dempster and Maholm go somewhere else, but it is part of the game. We're trying to get this thing completely healthy."
• Jackson will host his fourth "Edwin's Entourage" event on Monday at Wrigley Field. Jackson created the event to continue creating awareness of baseball to younger African American males. Local youth leagues are invited to batting practice to meet Jackson and talk about baseball, then watch the game as his guests. More than 40 participants from local youth leagues, ages 11-18, will take part.
• With an off-day scheduled for Thursday, the Cubs will not tweak their rotation, but keep everyone on schedule, Sveum said. Travis Wood, Carlos Villanueva and Jeff Samardzija will face the Rockies in a three-game series at Wrigley Field that starts Monday.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.