STL@CHC: Rondon strikes out Ellis to end the game

CHICAGO -- Cubs reliever Hector Rondon was not available on Monday after pitching in four straight games over five days.

Rondon was a perfect 3-for-3 in save situations, picking up saves on Friday and Saturday, but served up a tiebreaking two-run single to Yadier Molina in the ninth inning on Sunday. The Cardinals held on for a 5-4 win.

Catcher Welington Castillo gave Rondon a pep talk.

"I told him, 'Don't worry about anything. You threw the ball really good,'" Castillo said. "'You faced a good hitter. You tried to make a pitch and it didn't happen. Sometimes you make a bad pitch and you get out of it; sometimes you make a good pitch and they hit it.' Baseball is hard. I tried to tell him, 'Come [today] with your mind fresh and ready to go.'"

Rondon was smiling on Monday and said he was ready to go. Cubs manager Rick Renteria has been using the right-hander in save situations, but hasn't designated him as the closer. Justin Grimm and Pedro Strop are the Cubs' other options.

"I think their youthfulness doesn't allow them to get wrapped up in that particular inning," Renteria said. "They just think about making pitches, which is actually a good thing. If they have success, the confidence grows."

Castillo said Rondon's pitch just stayed too much on the plate, and Molina connected.

"Stuff happens," Castillo said. "Everybody wants to make a pitch when they need to. He's been so good. I told him, 'Don't try to change anything, you're good, and just refresh your mind and be ready.'"

Russell adjusting to limited work out of bullpen

CIN@CHC: Russell's athletic play retires Hamilton

CHICAGO -- James Russell appeared in 14 games in April 2013, but so far has seen limited action with the Cubs this season, pitching in 11 games. The lefty totaled 70-plus appearances the last two seasons. What's going on?

"It's a little different," Russell said Monday. "We haven't really been playing many teams that have a lot of lineups set up to where I can get extended work. It's just one of those things. It happens. I haven't really talked to them about it. I figure if there's a problem, they'd come to me and tell me."

The Cubs added lefty Wesley Wright in the offseason, and he's been getting more action recently. Wright has a 1.86 ERA in 10 games; Russell has a 4.50 ERA in his 11 games. Maybe manager Rick Renteria is riding the hot hand?

"[Wright] has been doing a little better job than me," Russell said. "I didn't start as well as I have the last two years. You can't expect to go out there and start off with a zero all the time. It's always nice, but it doesn't always happen. I'm not worried about it. As long as we keep winning, then so be it."

Russell was slowed by arm fatigue this spring but said he feels fine now.

"My body feels great, everything feels good," he said. "It's kind of luck of the draw."

"When guys need to pitch, they need to pitch," Renteria said. "You do try to monitor how many outings a guy has. You're protective, especially knowing how many pitches they've thrown."

Baker wants safety to be a priority for fans

"If I was a fan ... I'd much rather know I'd be safe," John Baker said.

CHICAGO -- When the Cubs were in Cincinnati last week, John Baker saw a family sitting directly behind the dugout with a 6-month-old baby. After the national anthem ended, the Cubs catcher told the family to be careful, and hold the child to the side to protect it from any foul balls.

"They looked at me like I was crazy," Baker said.

On Sunday night, Baker fouled a ball into the Wrigley Field stands behind the Cubs dugout and it struck a woman on the side of the head. He was visibly shaken by what happened.

"You don't want to see anybody ever get hurt in life, period," Baker said Monday. "You see somebody get hit in the face with a baseball, and I think when you have been hit in the face yourself, you know what it feels like and what they're going through. Fortunately for me, after it happened, I looked up and saw she was smiling. That took a lot of the pressure off."

The woman was examined by medics and returned to her seat with an ice pack on the side of her head. The Cubs players gave her a baseball, signed by everyone.

"When you're over the dugout here at Wrigley Field, you're so close to the action, I don't know if you have time to get out of the way," Baker said. "[Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina] looked at me right after it happened and said, 'Why don't they put a net up? Why don't they block that off so nobody gets hit?'

"They've talked about renovating the stadium, and maybe they can add that," Baker said. "If I was a fan sitting in the stands, I'd much rather know I'd be safe and not in jeopardy of getting hit in the face with a line drive."

Players get the message regarding lineups

CHICAGO -- Cubs players get a text message each night telling them if they're going to be in the lineup the next day. Manager Rick Renteria also makes sure he gives players a heads-up.

"We make sure they understand why we're doing what we're doing," Renteria said. "I've got no complaints about any players I have in terms of understanding what we're trying to do. I think it's best we communicate and make sure they understand."

He has encouraged players to talk to him, saying his office door is always open.

"If there's somthing you need to get off your chest, bring it," he said.

Has that happened?

"Not yet," Renteria said. "I don't know if it's because we talk. Even during [batting practice], you might call somebody in to have a conversation. I haven't had an issue."

Extra bases

• Tickets are on sale for Anthony Rizzo's second "Cook-Off for Cancer" fundraiser to be held May 16 from 6-10 p.m. CT at Revel Downtown, 440 W. Randolph, in Chicago. Last year's event raised more than $150,000 to support families with children fighting cancer.

Rizzo and the Cubs' players and coaching staff will be serving food and competing for tips, with proceeds going to benefit pediatric cancer research, care and support. Tickets for the event are $200 per person with limited number of tables available for $1,200. For tickets and information, visit www.cubs.com/cook.

Jose Veras, on the disabled list with a strained left oblique since April 24, is to begin a rehab assignment soon with Double-A Tennessee. Veras has been throwing bullpen sessions with the Minor League team.

• Jorge Soler, who strained his right hamstring in his first game with Double-A Tennessee, is playing in games at extended camp in Mesa, Ariz., and close to returning to the Minor League team. Soler is ranked No. 5 among the club's Top 20 Prospects, according to MLB.com.