Hot-handed Maholm has suitors

CHICAGO – The Chicago Cubs have the best record in baseball the past three weeks, and contributions from Paul Maholm have been a big part of that recent surge.

Maholm was again on target for the Cubs on Thursday, pitching eight innings of one-run ball to best Mark Buehrle and the Florida Marlins. Maholm is 4-0 with an 0.89 ERA in his past five starts dating back to June 29.

“I watched Buehrle during his career,” Maholm said. “You work fast and keep the ball down and put your defense to work and they make plays. I am all about trying to get (the game) over with quick.”

Although the Cubs have won 14 of their past 19 games, it will not prevent the team’s front office from trading players like Maholm. The Cubs are looking for an abundance of young talent as the July 31 trade deadline nears. Maholm and his teammates are aware scouts are watching all of the team’s games.

“Being around for a while, you know the trading deadline is coming, and if your name is out there, obviously somebody wants you,” Maholm said. “That’s not a terrible (thing). I signed to play and win here, but whatever happens in the next 10 or 12 days, I think everyone is professional enough to deal with it.”

Maholm, Ryan Dempster (Friday) and Matt Garza (Saturday) have been lined up to pitch in succession, so that scouts can get a good look at what the team has to offer over a three-game period. The Detroit Tigers, for instance, have had a scout watching Dempster and Garza over their past three starts, but then he takes off to watch other quality starters who may be available via trade in between.

“When I was in Pittsburgh, you saw a lot of guys come and go,” said Maholm. “You just do your work and prepare, and whatever guys you got there that day, you go out and expect to win.”

The Pirates, Maholm’s former team, and Kansas City have interest in the crafty pitcher, according to major league sources.

Even with all the trade rumors floating around, the Cubs are trying to stay focused on the field.

“We have been having fun right now, but now we have to worry about who will go or who will stay,” said Alfonso Soriano. “We just take it one day at a time and focus on that day.”