ST. LOUIS -- Dale Sveum's goal for the second half isn't just to post a .500 record for that time period, but for the Cubs to finish the season at .500.
That's a lofty goal for a team that began play Friday with a 38-53 record.
"There's no reason having a goal if it's not set high," Sveum said Friday. "To get there, it's going to be tough, obviously, to play 23 games over .500 to get to .500, but that's a goal. When you set goals, that's what you reach for -- you might come up a little short but you're a lot better off than setting a crappy goal and coming up short on that. Then you're really screwed."
The Cubs were on pace to lose more than 100 games at the All-Star break, but since June 25, the team has gone 14-5, the best record in the Major Leagues.
"You have to give the players as much credit as anything," Sveum said, adding they've maintained good work habits and a positive attitude during the tough times.
"Whether people call it 'trying to change a culture' or whatever, that's the idea of everything we do is try to be consistent with preparation and understanding about making yourself a better player every day and paying attention to details and paying attention to how important defense is," Sveum said.
Cubs sign 22-year-old righty Paniagua
ST. LOUIS -- The Cubs have confirmed they signed pitcher Juan Carlos Paniagua to a $1.5 million contract.
The money will count against the Cubs' $2.9 million international signing bonus pool for 2012-13.
The 22-year-old right-hander had signed in May 2009 with the Diamondbacks as "Juan Carlos Collado" for $17,000. He pitched in the Dominican Summer League program but the deal was terminated because of fraudulent paperwork, according to Baseball America. Paniagua was then declared ineligible to sign for one year.
In 2011, he signed with the Yankees for $1.1 million as Juan Carlos Paniagua. However, Major League Baseball terminated that contract because of "falsified documents" and he was declared ineligible to sign for one year. That time period ended Thursday.
Germano joins Cubs bullpen amid Dempster rumors
ST. LOUIS -- Justin Germano knew about the rumors that Ryan Dempster could be traded, so he wasn't sure what to expect when he got to Busch Stadium Friday to join the Cubs.
"He's one of the best pitchers in the game right now," said Germano, whom the Cubs acquired Thursday from the Red Sox for cash considerations. "He's definitely going to be sought after. Whether that had any impact on me, I have no idea. I'm not really anybody compared to him."
Dempster (5-3, 1.86 ERA) started Friday against the Cardinals. Did Germano think there was a possibility he might get the start?
"I had no idea," Germano said. "I saw that he could be traded today, I saw that I could start today. I still don't know what's going on."
As of now, Germano is in the Cubs' bullpen. The right-hander has spent almost all of the season with Triple-A Pawtucket, where he was 9-4 with a 2.40 ERA in 17 appearances. He made one relief appearance for the Red sox on July 7, and was designated for assignment on July 13.
"I was excited," he said about going to the Cubs. "I wasn't sure what was going to happen. The process was taking a little longer than they said it was going to. They had the 10 days, but they said they would do it pretty quickly. If there was no trade, they said they'd do a waiver process."
He has been stretched out, totaling 105 innings at Pawtucket, so he could've started if needed. Pitching coach Chris Bosio got a firsthand look Friday as Germano did a short session in the bullpen.
Cubs manager Dale Sveum watched Germano pitch against the Brewers, including twice in 2007, and said the right-hander has good sink on his fastball and good command of his curve. He'll take over Jairo Asencio's role in the bullpen and could make a spot start. Asencio, who had a 4.91 ERA in 30 relief appearances, was designated for assignment to make room on the roster for Germano.
Germano has pitched for the Padres, Reds, Indians and Red Sox.
"I don't know too much about what's going on here, but I know [the Cubs] have a lot of young guys and a lot of young talent," he said. "I feel it's a good opportunity to show what I can do and hopefully stick and help the team win some games and maybe find a home here."
He definitely saw the difference the Cubs make on Twitter. Germano (@JustGerm) picked up 200 followers after news broke that he'd joined the Cubs.
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.