BOSTON -- One year ago, Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop found out they were being traded from the Orioles to the Cubs.
"I feel like I've been here forever," Strop said, laughing.
The Cubs dealt starter Scott Feldman and catcher Steve Clevenger to the Orioles for the two pitchers on July 2, 2013, which started another series of moves by Chicago. Arrieta agreed it felt as if it had been more than a year since the transaction. The right-hander has thrived, and was the Cubs' best pitcher in June with a 4-0 record and 0.92 ERA in six starts.
"I said this when I was with the Orioles, I know I can pitch at an extremely high level consistently in this game at this level and it just hadn't happened yet," Arrieta said. "I knew it was going to happen -- no doubt in my mind. It was a matter of how to find it, how to unlock it and how to finally get it to come out. I've started to be able to figure it out."
Arrieta still watches Orioles games and roots for the players.
"I want them to do well," he said. "When I saw [Matt] Wieters had to have Tommy John, I was upset about it. ... You make so many relationships in this game throughout your career, those are important to me."
Strop said he feels as if he's "found himself" since joining the Cubs. He is one of the club's top setup pitchers, and has given up two earned runs over his last 15 games, striking out 14.
"When I was there, I was finding my rhythm, too, but I wasn't pitching a lot," he said. "I wasn't getting an opportunity to pitch. Here, it's easy to find yourself and find your rhythm when you pitch a lot."
When the Cubs made the deal last year, general manager Jed Hoyer said they had jumped the market by moving players well before the non-waiver July 31 Trade Deadline.
"Last year, it really came together," Hoyer said. "Baltimore was so determined to get a starter at that point that it worked out really well.
"Ultimately, sometimes it takes a deadline to make deals. People get a lot more serious every day it gets closer to the end of July, and it probably works both ways. I don't think you go into July thinking you'll make deals early, but sometimes they can come together."
Renteria, Jackson feel Rizzo, Castro are All-Stars
BOSTON -- Cubs fans can still cast online votes for Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro to go to the All-Star Game. The pair got an endorsement from teammate Edwin Jackson.
"They're just coming into their own," Jackson said of the two 24-year-old Cubs. "The more they get the chance to play, the more they get a chance to discover themselves and realize what they're able to do.
"They're All-Star-caliber players and the quicker they realize it and take the field with that type of attitude, it shows in their play."
Rizzo has 14 home runs since April 30, the most in the National League, and he is tied for sixth-most in the Majors. He has 35 walks, a .395 on-base percentage and a .937 OPS in his last 56 games dating to April 30. The Cubs first baseman also has 11 doubles, 14 homers and 34 RBIs during this stretch.
Of his 11 homers since May 8, nine have given the Cubs the lead and one has tied the game.
"I know there's a lot of competition at first base," Rizzo said. "But National League, they can use extra players. ... It would be really cool [to be selected]. It would be awesome."
Castro's 11 home runs and 47 RBIs this season top the 10 homers and 44 RBIs he totaled in 161 games last year. He is batting .286 and has 93 hits, second among all NL shortstops, trailing only the Rockies' Troy Tulowitzki. Castro's 37 extra-base hits are the most among Major League shortstops.
"I'm excited that day is coming," Castro said of Sunday, when the All-Star teams are announced. "If it happens, I'll be really happy, me and my family. After last year, a lot of bad things happened, and it would be cool for me to be back in the All-Star Game."
The goal now is to keep it going for the entire season.
"I feel good now physically, everything, my mind is strong. Hopefully, I'll make the All-Star Game," Castro said.
"They've made some vast improvements in their game, and they continue to learn and continue to adjust," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said of Castro and Rizzo. "They do impact us in a big way, and in many different facets. They deserve a nod, as, quite frankly, Jeff [Samardzija] and [Jason Hammel]. I know I say I'd throw everybody in there, but those four have gone out and done a nice job."
Fans can cast their votes for starters at MLB.com and all 30 club sites -- online or on a mobile device -- using the 2014 All-Star Game MLB.com Ballot Sponsored by Experian until Thursday at 10:59 p.m. CT. The 2014 All-Star Game will be played at Target Field on Tuesday, July 15.
Fans may submit up to 25 online ballots, but they can also earn a one-time bonus of 10 additional online ballots. To access these additional online ballots, you must be logged into your MLB.com account when you submit any online ballot. If you do not have an MLB.com account, register on the site in accordance with the enrollment instructions for a free MLB.com account.
Fans this year once again can participate in the Home Run Derby Fan Poll. Fans will have the opportunity to select three players in each league who they would most like to see participate in the Gillette Home Run Derby. The 2014 Home Run Derby will be broadcast live on ESPN, ESPN HD, ESPN Deportes and ESPN Radio in the United States beginning at 7 p.m. on Monday, July 14.
The 2014 American League and NL All-Star teams will be unveiled on the Taco Bell All-Star Selection Show on Sunday, beginning at 6 p.m. on ESPN, with further details to follow on MLB.com. Immediately following the announcement of the AL and NL All-Star rosters, fans can begin voting to select the final player for each league's 34-man roster via the 2014 All-Star Game MLB.com Final Vote Sponsored by Experian. Fans will cast their votes from a list of five players from each league over the balloting period.
And the voting doesn't end there. The final phase of All-Star Game voting will again have fans participating in the voting for the Ted Williams All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet. During the Midsummer Classic, fans will vote exclusively online at MLB.com via the 2014 All-Star Game MLB.com MVP Vote Sponsored by Pepsi, and their voice will represent 20 percent of the overall vote that determines the recipient of the Arch Ward Trophy.
MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage of the All-Star Week festivities.
The 85th All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network and SiriusXM will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com.
Prospect Alcantara impressing at Triple-A
BOSTON -- The Cubs' so-called core four may need to make room for one more.
Arismendy Alcantara -- ranked No. 6 on the Cubs' Top 20 Prospects list -- is making quite an impression at Triple-A Iowa. The infielder was batting .307 in 82 games with 10 home runs, 22 doubles, 10 triples and 20 stolen bases. He's played both second base and center field.
"His year has been on a really good trajectory," Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said Wednesday. "I feel he's the underappreciated guy in our system. He's only 22, he's a switch-hitter, he's in Triple-A and no one talks about him because of guys like [Javier] Baez, [Kris] Bryant and [Albert] Almora."
Baez, Bryant, Almora and Jorge Soler have been dubbed the core four, and are considered the top prospects in the Cubs' system. Add Alcantara to the list.
"He's opened our eyes with the year he's having," Hoyer said.
Having Alcantara be able to play both infield and outfield has definitely improved his chances of getting promoted to the big leagues.
"We do have a lot of infielders," Hoyer said. "At some point, we'll probably move Javy around [the infield], too. Alcantara is fast and can go out and play center field and looks good when he's done it. In our organization, we have a lot more depth infield than outfield, so I think it only adds to his ways to being on the club."
• Left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada could start one of the Cubs' games of a makeup doubleheader Tuesday in Cincinnati. Wada was 9-4 with a 2.55 ERA in 16 starts for Triple-A Iowa.
"He's a candidate to make a start potentially for the doubleheader in Cincinnati and beyond that, we'll see," Hoyer said Wednesday. "We haven't made any official decisions, but he's certainly in the running."
Last Saturday, Dallas Beeler was promoted from Iowa to start the first game of a day-night twin bill against the Nationals. In six ininngs, Beeler gave up just one run -- on a wild pitch -- and took the loss.
• Emilio Bonifacio is continuing to make progress in his rehab from a right oblique strain, and was working out in Mesa, Ariz., at the team's complex. There is no timetable for his return.
• Cubs reliever Neil Ramirez didn't notice David Ortiz when he left the batter's box early in the eighth inning Tuesday. The count was 3-0, and Ortiz apparently didn't want to wait for ball four, and got a head start to first.
"I didn't notice it when I was out there," Ramirez said. "Looking at video [Tuesday] night, I saw what he did. ... It didn't bother me. We knew going at him that we weren't going to give him anything good to hit. Once it got to 3-0, it was, make a pitch down, so if he swings at it, make it something he can't do much damage with. I think he figured we were going to throw a ball. It doesn't bother me."
And next time Ramirez faces Ortiz?
"I'll try to get him out," Ramirez said.
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.