CHICAGO -- The Cubs' offense has sputtered in June, and they totaled five hits on Thursday in a 6-1 loss to the Cardinals. One of the things that bothered manager Dale Sveum was that his team took 14 first-pitch strikes.
"We got a lot of fastballs to hit [Thursday] and didn't do anything with them," Sveum said Friday.
The problem is finding a balance between being aggressive and being selective.
"You don't want to be in that mode, the wishy-washy thoughts -- 'Should I swing at the first pitch? Should I not swing at the first pitch? What's a good time to do it?'" Sveum said. "Basically, if you can drive the ball out of the ballpark, take a good swing at it. That's what you want to do.
"If it's a pitcher's pitch -- if he paints down and away, if he paints on the inside black; OK, we take those pitches. You don't want to have different thoughts all the time, and I think that's one thing that gets in the way of hitting, is hitters get different thoughts all the time. 'This at-bat, I'm going to do this. This at-bat, I'm going to do that. The third at-bat, I'm going to do this.' Instead of just being the same guy all the time.
"You get men in scoring position, be ready to hit," he said. "Averages go down when you're behind in the count, it's a simple fact. It's happened for 100 years in the game."
The Cubs are batting .205 after an 0-1 count entering Friday. In the four-game series against the Cardinals, the Cubs batted .161 and scored eight runs, half of them in the second game.
Are hitters taking those first pitches because of the emphasis placed on improving the team's on-base percentage?
"Obviously, right now, we've got some guys struggling, so that takes care of itself, and guys have a lot of things going on in their minds," Sveum said of the Cubs, who are batting .203 this month. "What it comes down to is a failure factor. [Some players are] worried about failing instead of worrying about succeeding, and you can't do anything in any walk of life in that mindset."
Discomfort delays Soler's return to Class A Daytona
CHICAGO -- Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler, eligible to come off the disabled list Friday after being sidelined with a sore left shin, was still experiencing some discomfort, and he is not expected to return to the Class A Daytona lineup for a few more days.
"He was sore there, and that's why he didn't play in the [Florida State League] All-Star Game, and we thought it would be best to rest him for a few days, and hopefully it'll be another day or two," said Jason McLeod, vice president, scouting and player development for the Cubs.
Soler, ranked by MLB.com as the Cubs' No. 3 prospect, was batting .281 with eight home runs, 13 doubles and one triple in 55 games with Daytona.
Josh Vitters, who was rehabbing at the Cubs' complex in Mesa, Ariz., apparently had a setback, and there's no timetable for the third baseman's return, McLeod said. Vitters, 23, is on Triple-A Iowa's disabled list and was batting .270 in 19 games.
"He's battling some nicks and bruises," McLeod said of Vitters, the Cubs' No. 1 Draft pick in 2007. "It's been a tough year for him. He's a kid who, because of where he was picked in the Draft, you tend to think this guy is 25 years old or something, but he's still fairly young. Hopefully, he can salvage the second half and get out on the field."
Speaking of the First-Year Player Draft, McLeod said most of the college players selected this year will go to Class A Boise, rather than play in the Arizona Rookie League, which gets underway Friday.
Pierce Johnson, a first-round pick by the Cubs in the 2012 Draft, was recently promoted from Class A Kane County to Daytona, but McLeod said they'll give the right-hander a little break.
"He certainly earned [the promotion]," McLeod said of Johnson. "He's at about 70 innings right now, and looking at what we have planned for him for the year, we thought it would be a good challenge for him. We'll use the All-Star break and where we're slotting him to give him a little breather. He probably won't start another five, six days, which will give him, in essence, a skipped start."
Johnson was 5-5 with a 3.10 ERA in 13 starts for Kane County, striking out 74 over 69 2/3 innings.
McLeod also said Cuban pitcher Gerardo Concepcion is not likely to pitch this summer because of back problems. The target date, McLeod said, was the instructional league in the fall.
Cubs deal versatile Lillibridge to Yankees
CHICAGO -- The Cubs dealt utility infielder Brent Lillibridge to the Yankees on Friday for a player to be named or cash considerations.
Lillibridge was batting .281 in 48 games at Triple-A Iowa. He opened the season with the Cubs, but went 1-for-24 in nine games, and was sent to the Minors.
The versatile Lillibridge, 29, was batting .317 this month. He's played all infield positions plus the outfield, and has spent time with the White Sox, Cubs, Indians, Braves, and Red Sox.
He signed as a free agent with the Cubs in January.
• For the second straight start, catcher Dioner Navarro was matched up with pitcher Matt Garza.
The two were teammates on the Rays, and Garza wasn't happy with Welington Castillo after a June 11 game against the Reds when he gave up a season-high nine runs over five innings. Sveum said timing was more the reason why Navarro was behind the plate Friday.
"It's just a matter of having a quick turnover, playing two games in 24 hours, you've got to get Navarro in there," Sveum said.
The Cubs played a night game in St. Louis on Thursday, and had a day game on Friday against the Astros. With Navarro in his last start on Sunday against the Mets, Garza threw seven shutout innings.
• The Cubs are mulling possible roster moves, Sveum said. The team was carrying eight relievers, having added a pitcher after outfielder David DeJesus went on the disabled list last Saturday because of a sprained right shoulder.
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.