Cubs' Maholm weighs in on possible return to Bucs

| Monday, July 23, 2012, 7:46 p.m.

Cubs left-hander Paul Maholm, who will start today, saw the irony in the Pirates' reported interest in trading for him.

“It would be ironic to leave as a free agent and then they wanted me back,” he said. “They are rumors, and we will see how it turns out. My next two starts are against them. It should be an interesting 10 days.”

Maholm, who is 4-0 with an 0.89 ERA in his past five games, also is slated to pitch against the Pirates on July 30 at Wrigley Field.

Maholm, who saw many of his former teammates Sunday night at a charity fundraiser on the South Side, is among a handful of players being shopped by the rebuilding Cubs. He would be owed about $1.75 million on the remainder of a one-year, $4.75 million deal he signed in the offseason.

Familiarity is one plus for the Pirates, for whom Maholm pitched from 2005-11.

“I don't think they'd have to send out scouts to see me,” he said.

• Maholm received a no-decision when he faced the Pirates for the first time May 26, allowing two runs and four hits in five innings. Asked whether pitchers have an advantage against former teammates or vice versa, Pirates outfielder Garrett Jones said it's difficult to say. “I think maybe the pitcher because he's seen us hit a lot more and knows hitters' tendencies. But then again, we know the kind of stuff he has and how he likes to pitch, so it's an interesting battle. ... He's a good pitcher, he's been pitching well. We're happy he's doing well, but when we face him we're going to try to take it to him and score as many runs off him as we can.”

• Surging right-hander Jeff Karstens and catcher Michael McKenry are thriving as a battery. In his past three starts with McKenry behind the plate, Karstens is 3-0 with an 0.82 ERA. In his lone start with Rod Barajas catching in that span, Karstens allowed four runs in seven innings. With manager Clint Hurdle wanting to keep Barajas fresh, don't be surprised to see the Karstens-McKenry tandem down the road. “We will see how it plays out,” Hurdle said. “I like the results we've gotten. That could be a mix that works out for us.”

• Jordy Mercer took a four-game hitting streak (4 for 8) into the series opener against the Cubs, with three doubles and a triple. Four of his five major league hits have gone for extra bases. “This is awesome,” he said. “It's pretty cool to be a Pirate right now, to tell you the truth.”

— John Grupp and Karen Price

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