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Sweeney, Valbuena back as rosters expand

CHICAGO -- With rosters expanding for September the Chicago Cubs activated outfielder Ryan Sweeney and infielder Luis Valbuena from the disabled list while recalling right-handed pitcher Alberto Cabrera from Triple-A Iowa, the team announced on Sunday.

Sweeney is returning from a rib injury suffered after crashing into the wall in Seattle in late June. He joins a crowded outfield which includes Brian Bogusevic, Nate Schierholtz and rookie Junior Lake. None are guaranteed jobs for next season, although Lake and Schierholtz are front-runners for two starting positions.

“It’s nice to have those guys back,” Sveum said Sunday morning of his injured players. “The outfield will probably be a little bit of a rotation through the last month.”

Valbuena is back after suffering a right oblique strain and he’ll compete with Donnie Murphy for playing time at third base. Murphy stormed onto the scene after being recalled from Iowa, hitting eight home runs in his first 16 games. Expect a platoon with the right-handed Murphy and left-handed Valbuena.

“I want to finish strong,” Valbuena said. “I was happy for Murphy.”

There is no clear-cut favorite for the starting job at third base next season. The Cubs have a couple of prospects at that position but they may not be ready for the start of 2014. Former top pick Josh Vitters used to be the heir apparent at third, but struggles and injuries have set him back. Same goes for center field prospect Brett Jackson. Both were call-ups last season but neither is coming to Chicago this time around.

“Things have changed a great deal with missing so much time this year,” Sveum said of Jackson and Vitters. “The player development part has been pretty much lost this year. It will be a wait-and-see thing this winter.”

So instead of looking at young players this month -- with the exception of Lake -- the Cubs will be analyzing veterans for next season.

“We don’t have those young kids coming up like last year with Brett Jackson and Vitters and that type of thing,” Sveum said. “This year we have some older guys, some left-handed bats in the mix for next season.”

And that’s where guys like Sweeney, Bogusevic and Valbuena come in. The Cubs’ top prospects won’t be ready next April so chances are the names in the lineup now will be very similar come the start of 2014.

“The last couple months of the season they’ve made it clear they want to see what guys can do,” Bogusevic said. “There’s opportunities to play. All you can do is try to make the most of it.”

To make room for Sweeney on the 40-man roster the Cubs designated pitcher Eduardo Sanchez for assignment.

Cabrera made his major league debut last season for the Cubs before pitching in Double and Triple-A this year. He combined to go 10-6 with a 3.79 ERA.