MILWAUKEE -- Cubs hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo gave the players a pep talk before Friday's game.
The club entered the game against the Brewers 10-7 in their last 17 games dating to April 21, and batting .254 and hitting 13 of their season-total 18 home runs in that stretch.
Bryan LaHair has carried the team, batting .384 with a team-high eight home runs. Some of the others have been scuffling, so Jaramillo challenged them during an early batting practice session at Miller Park.
"Players are so superstitious," he said. "It's kind of like a ritual -- you remember how you put your uniform on the day before and then maybe you change your socks or you try to do something different. What happens, too, is they try to do something different with their swing and try to change it, but really you have to go back to your mentality and change that."
What he wants to see is some swagger and players being aggressive and attacking.
"We get in-between mentally at the plate when you're struggling because you're worried about mechanics, you're worried about what pitch, so there's no concentration, no plan or approach," he said. "The way you get out of it is to go up there and be aggressive so you don't get that in-between thinking, and attack. 'I'm going to attack and get a good pitch and hit it hard.' That's how you get out of it, basically."
Which is what he told the players.
"I said, 'Hey, I don't want to hear about mechanics, I don't want to hear about anything,'" Jaramillo said. "'I want you to attack the ball and be aggressive and then you don't think about being in-between.' And we had a great session."
Sveum enjoys reunion with Brewers at Miller
MILWAUKEE -- Dale Sveum had a chance to chat with Bob Uecker, catch up with Rickie Weeks, and talk to Brewers general manager Doug Melvin before Friday's game, his first at Miller Park as the manager of the Cubs.
After playing for the Brewers from 1986-91 and then being part of the coaching staff for the last six seasons, Sveum now is on the visitor's side.
"We had a good time playing against him the first series we played in Chicago," Milwaukee's Jonathan Lucroy said. "I don't expect anything different. I know they're going to come out and battle us and give us a good run like they did last time."
When the two teams played at Wrigley Field April 9-12, the Brewers won three out of four. On Friday, the Cubs and Brewers entered the series tied for last in the National League Central.
For Sveum, it was nice being back on familiar turf.
"The past is the past now," he said Friday. "It seems weird that you're not part of it anymore, especially when you come to this stadium.
"I spent a lot of years in this city and the old stadium and the new stadium," he said. "It's a part of you, there's no doubt about it. It's nice to come back for a few days and see everybody."
Both the Cubs and Brewers like to use defensive shifts, so that will make the series interesting.
"It's fun when we have this little chess match back and forth," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "[Sveum] knows what we're going to do, I know what he's going to do. I like it. I like that challenge."
So does Sveum.
"I learned a lot from [Roenicke] last year and respect him a tremendous amount," Sveum said.
Lucroy isn't surprised to see Sveum managing now.
"I've heard guys talk about how he was going to be a manager somewhere eventually, whoever it was going to be," Lucroy said. "And then it ended up being the Cubs. He has that manager mentality.
"Whenever he was on the bench, I'd always hear him talking about in certain situations what he would do," Lucroy said. "That manager attitude was always in there."
Said Roenicke: "He's a good guy, he works hard, he does things the right way. And I enjoy that. I enjoy that way more than somebody that's over on that other side that I may not have that kind of respect for."
Dolis likely to get save chances this weekend
MILWAUKEE -- Cubs manager Dale Sveum will try to give Rafael Dolis or James Russell a heads-up during batting practice as to who will be the designated closer. This weekend against the Brewers, it'll probably be the rookie Dolis.
Sveum has shown a lot of faith in the youngsters who have taken over for Carlos Marmol, who was removed from the closer spot after several rough performances.
"You're open-minded to everything for the most part, but the bottom line is performance," Sveum said. "We talked about it in Spring Training -- was Dolis going to be able to handle the seventh, eighth, ninth inning with the lead, and he has. He's thrown strikes and been able to get back in counts with strikes after he's thrown a couple balls. He's proven he can do it. When guys prove they can do it, you have to use them and give them that confidence, too."
It's difficult to determine if a player has the right mentality for the job until their in those situations, Sveum said.
While the Cubs' starters have gone deep in games, Lendy Castillo and Michael Bowden have not gotten much work.
"With relievers, you try to do a matchup thing, but with guys like that, they're going to pitch in games when we're down a little bit or in the fifth inning, we might have to get the starter out of there," Sveum said of the two right-handers. "They're not the matchup guys, so to speak. They might pitch in the middle of the game when we're up by a couple because guys need days off."
Castillo, a Rule 5 Draft pick making the jump from Class A to the big leagues, has appeared in six games, while Bowden, who was claimed off waivers, has made three appearances for the Cubs.
Welington Castillo started at catcher on Friday so Geovany Soto could get an extra day off. Cubs manager Dale Sveum said he wanted Castillo to face a left-handed pitcher in hopes of getting him on track offensively. Castillo was 0-for-11 entering Friday.
What does he need to see from Castillo?
"We know what we've got," Sveum said. "We've got a guy who can be an everyday catcher because of his arm, because of the way he handles pitchers. He receives the ball, he blocks everything. He's got everything as a catcher. You have to find him time. You don't want a guy developing in the big leagues playing once a week either."
Cubs starting pitchers have gone seven innings and given up one run or none in the last three games for the first time since Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster and Rich Harden did so, July 29-31, 2008. According to Elias Sports Bureau, the last time the Cubs starters did that well in four straight games was July 29-31, 1984, when Steve Trout, Scott Sanderson, Dennis Eckersley and Rich Bordi accomplished the feat.
The players have recovered from the flu bug that ran through the clubhouse, but now the coaches are ill. Pitching coach Chris Bosio and bench coach Jamie Quirk were battling the illness.
Monday's Cubs-Cardinals game in St. Louis will begin at 6:05 p.m. CT to accomodate ESPN's broadcast.
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.