CHICAGO -- A common belief throughout baseball is that there are two times players can't be truly judged: Spring Training and September.
Cubs manager Dale Sveum agrees with the first part of that sentiment. The second? Not so much.
"It's very difficult to judge Spring Training, but September's a whole other thing," Sveum said. "People say that and, yeah, there are times where somebody's facing a Double-A-, Triple-A-type pitcher. But for the most part they're still facing big league hitters and big league pitchers, so it is a time to evaluate."
Sveum believes the Cubs are learning things about their young players as they finish the season's final month. This weekend's series against the Cardinals is the perfect example.
The Cubs faced Chris Carpenter on Friday, Adam Wainwright on Saturday and were scheduled to face Kyle Lohse on Sunday. Carpenter has won a Cy Young Award, Wainwright has two top-three finishes and Lohse is 15-3 with a 2.71 ERA this season.
Plus, there's the Cardinals' bullpen. Although it wasn't at full strength Friday, late-inning relievers Mitchell Boggs and Jason Motte were expected to be available for the remainder of the series.
"When you're playing the contending teams that haven't dismantled or called up a lot of September callups, there's a lot of evaluating going on," Sveum said.
And despite giving younger players opportunities, the Cubs have continued to play hard. They fought back Friday, trailing by two runs and down to their last strike, before posting a 5-4 win in extra innings. Moments like those are ones Sveum said can't be replicated in the Cactus League.
"It's not just evaluating the final result; you're evaluating the ability to slow that part of the game down and see what kind of players can handle those situations," Sveum said. "Because when it's all said and done, when you're playing in September and October and everything's on the line, you want the players you can trust that don't sort of clam up in those situations."