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Regular-season work left for Cubs to do

NL Central champs want to lock up best record in Senior Circuit, reach 100 wins
Special to MLB.com

CHICAGO -- The Cubs have advance scouts watching potential playoff opponents and will officially begin preparing for the postseason with organizational meetings Tuesday.

There was also a meeting Monday at Wrigley Field, prior to a series-opening game against the Reds. It had a playoff theme, as well, but mostly served to remind Cubs players there are still things to do after clinching the National League Central last week.

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CHICAGO -- The Cubs have advance scouts watching potential playoff opponents and will officially begin preparing for the postseason with organizational meetings Tuesday.

There was also a meeting Monday at Wrigley Field, prior to a series-opening game against the Reds. It had a playoff theme, as well, but mostly served to remind Cubs players there are still things to do after clinching the National League Central last week.

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"I just wanted to reiterate some of the stuff we talked about in Spring Training, that was it," manager Joe Maddon said. "It's unusual to be in this position that we are in right now, so you've got two weeks of baseball, Major League Baseball, left in September. So, let's work on some stuff. Let's work on things we need to work on individually or as a group."

Postseason: Gear | Schedule

It's a tricky balancing act, but the Cubs aim to manage it through the final couple weeks of the regular season. Their next big goal is clinching the best record in the Major Leagues, which would give them home-field advantage through the NL portion of the playoffs, and they'd also like to reach or surpass 100 wins.

Mostly, though, Maddon just wants them to use the next two weeks wisely.

"We have to really get our minds right over the next [two to three] weeks, to really be prepared properly for that first [playoff] game, and I wanted it to start today," Maddon said. "Let's work on the stuff that we want to get better at, what we've done pretty well up until this point, but let's see if we can improve upon it. And that was the purpose of the meeting."

Video: Cubs return to postseason by clinching NL Central

One area in particular has stood out to Maddon. He'd like the Cubs to start thinking less about mechanics and more about simply fueling their competitive fire.

"You could talk about whatever situation, game situation, you want to talk about," Maddon said. "But at the end of the day, you have to be self-aware in that moment. 'What is required of me right now?' How do I go about this?' And then, purely because he has another uniform on, we're trying to beat him. That's what it should really come down to. I think we get away from that sometimes."

As for those other meetings that begin Tuesday, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said Monday that he has never had so much time to prepare for the postseason.

"To me, it's a lot better than having to push your guys extra hard and put more innings on guys' arms and not giving them enough rest," Epstein said. "I trust our guys to ramp it up and focus when everything is on the line. I don't worry about the effort."

Epstein said they've considered playing a simulated game during the time from when the regular season ends to when the NL Division Series starts on Oct. 7.

Worth noting

Jorge Soler remains day to day but continues to show improvement after soreness on his right side forced him to leave Friday's game against the Brewers. Maddon was awaiting an update from Cubs athletic trainer P.J. Mainville when addressing reporters Monday, but thinks Soler might return soon.

"He's close," Maddon said. "We think that maybe by [Tuesday] he might be able to pinch-hit, and we'll work it from there. ... He's getting very close."

Pedro Strop threw another bullpen session Sunday and, according to Maddon, drew rave reviews from Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio. The next step for Strop, who's been on the disabled list with a torn meniscus in his left knee since Aug. 11, is throwing a simulated game.

"That's the next thing on the docket, is to get him in a sim game, but [Bosio] is effusive regarding how well Stropey looked, or how he threw the ball," Maddon said.

Brian Hedger is a contributor to MLB.com based in Chicago. Cubs beat reporter Carrie Muskat contributed to this report.

Chicago Cubs