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Rene glad to play for grandfather's favorite club

Catcher joins Cubs, makes debut with team he grew up watching
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

CHICAGO -- When Rene Rivera was growing up in Puerto Rico, he would watch the Cubs games on television with his grandfather. Rivera was a big fan of Sammy Sosa and Ryne Sandberg, and on Sunday, he made his debut for his grandfather's favorite team.

The Cubs claimed Rivera off the waiver wire from the Mets on Saturday, and he was in the starting lineup Sunday in the Cubs' 6-5 win in the series finale against the Blue Jays. Rivera reached on an infield single in his first at-bat in the third and flied out twice. He also drew praise from Chicago starter Kyle Hendricks.

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CHICAGO -- When Rene Rivera was growing up in Puerto Rico, he would watch the Cubs games on television with his grandfather. Rivera was a big fan of Sammy Sosa and Ryne Sandberg, and on Sunday, he made his debut for his grandfather's favorite team.

The Cubs claimed Rivera off the waiver wire from the Mets on Saturday, and he was in the starting lineup Sunday in the Cubs' 6-5 win in the series finale against the Blue Jays. Rivera reached on an infield single in his first at-bat in the third and flied out twice. He also drew praise from Chicago starter Kyle Hendricks.

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"It was awesome," Hendricks said about working with Rivera for the first time. "I told him after the game, 'I think we can work well going forward.' He's a quick learner."

Rivera was pretty excited to be in a Cubs uniform.

"I was a kid -- I think it was middle school or maybe earlier than that -- and [my grandfather] used to watch the Cubs games in Puerto Rico," Rivera said. "He loved [broadcasters] Harry Caray, Steve Stone. I grew up watching the Cubs. It's an honor for me to be here, a team he loved so much."

Tweet from @ReneRivera13: Now is time for this new chapter in my career with the Chicago @Cubs and I am really excited for it! #FlyTheW

Joe Maddon first met Rivera in Puerto Rico when he was there to see Javier Baez play winter ball. The Cubs' manager had no problems inserting his newest catcher in the lineup.

"He's been around a bit -- it's not his first rodeo," Maddon said of Rivera. "I can tell he's comfortable already."

Rivera is the second catcher the Cubs have acquired since the end of July. At the non-waiver Trade Deadline, they added Alex Avila from the Tigers. Both are necessary since Willson Contreras injured his right hamstring on Aug. 9 and is expected to miss at least four weeks.

"They weren't on the radar in the beginning, but you couldn't ask for a better duo," Maddon said of Avila and Rivera.

Rivera remembered meeting Maddon in Puerto Rico because it was shortly after the catcher had been traded to the Rays.

"It helped me out a lot to get to know the [Rays' pitchers]," Rivera said. "We had a great conversation."

Was Rivera surprised to be in the lineup on Sunday, his first day with the team?

"I'm ready any time they need me," he said.

Worth noting
Wade Davis is a perfect 26-for-26 in save opportunities, and he has tied Ryan Dempster for the Cubs' consecutive save record. Dempster saved 26 in a row from Aug. 2, 2005-May 1, 2006. For Davis, every day is the same, reliever Brian Duensing said.

"He's well prepared every single day. He prepares as if he's going to pitch every single day," Duensing said of the right-hander. "That's a good thing. I think it allows him to be as consistent as he can be. He just goes in there and gets the job done."

Video: TOR@CHC: Davis earns the save, ties Dempster's record

Davis also has been what Duensing called a "quiet leader" in the bullpen, offering advice on hitters and situations.

"He'll throw his two cents in there every once in a while," Duensing said. "If you have a question, he's the guy to ask. ... He'll give his two cents, but he's also the first guy to say, 'Hey, we're all different.'"

The Cubs' relievers do have their routines, and they sit in the same seats in the bullpen, but that started before Davis' streak began. Naturally, nobody has changed the patterns.

"We all have our spots," Duensing said. "It's crazy."

The Cubs' relievers entered Sunday ranked second in the National League in batting average against (.217) behind the Dodgers (.213). With Koji Uehara back in the mix after being on the disabled list with a neck strain, Maddon is hoping to rotate the setup pitchers.

"In a perfect world, I'd like to start rotating them more consistently so they don't have to pitch two days in a row, other than maybe Wade," Maddon said of Uehara, Pedro Strop, Hector Rondon, Carl Edwards Jr. and Justin Wilson.

• Maddon said there has been no discussion about September callups. Teams can expand their 25-man rosters on Sept. 1.

To make room for Rivera on the 25-man roster, catcher Victor Caratini was optioned to Triple-A Iowa, along with left-handed reliever Rob Zastryzny, who was moved to make room for Uehara. Both are expected to return in September.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.

Chicago Cubs, Rene Rivera