News (in brief) and notes from around the Central:
- The Cardinals rewarded left-hander Jaime Garcia for the excellent start to his career with a four-year contract extension that guarantees Garcia $27.5 million. The extension carries a couple of club options that could keep Garcia in St. Louis through 2017.
- The Pirates' strong first half has made a believer out of Sporting News "reporter" / LOLcat Anthony Witrado, who says that he's convinced that the Bucs will finish over .500 and remain in the NL Central pennant race in the second half.
- There's been some chatter recently that the Reds might make a push to land Rockies right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez, but word out of Colorado is that the Rox aren't motivated to move Jimenez, who's only on the books for $18 million over the next three years.
- Hall of Famer and former Iowa Cubs manager Ryne Sandberg didn't land the job as Cubs skipper last offseason, when the Baby Bears instead opted to remove Cryin' Mike Quade's interim tag, and Sandberg left the organization to work for the Phillies. But Ryno says he'd be happy to take the helm for the Cubs if (and when) the manager job opens again.
- All-Star Hunter Pence is one of the only good things that the Astros have going for them right now, but with the team languishing 30 games under .500 at the midway point, there's already speculation that the 'Stros might look to move Pence to restock their bare cupboards.
In case you forgot what the current standings look like, here's your refresher:
On tap for tonight:
- The Crew begins a four-game set in Denver against the Rockies, starting at 7:40 p.m. CDT tonight. Game one features Yovani Gallardo (10-5, 3.76) taking on Ubaldo Jimenez (4-8, 4.14).
- The Cubs host the Marlins in a four-game series that begins at 7:05 p.m. CDT tonight. Scheduled to start: for the Fish, Anibal Sanchez (6-2, 3.58); for the Baby Bears, Matt Garza (4-7, 4.26).
- Everybody else -- Cards, Pirates, Reds, and 'Stros -- gets one more day to rest before beginning the (unofficial) second half of the season.