4/9/2014 12:55 A.M. ET
Renteria becomes first skipper tossed in '14
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- The Cubs' Rick Renteria became the first Major League manager to be ejected this season when he was tossed in the ninth inning for arguing balls and strikes with home-plate umpire Jeff Nelson.
Managers do have access to expanded instant replay this year, but cannot challenge an umpire's calls on balls and strikes.
Renteria was the first Major League manager to use instant replay, doing so in Pittsburgh on Opening Day. Told that he also was first to be ejected, he shrugged.
"OK," Renteria said. "I don't know if that's very good, but OK."
The Pirates led 7-6 in the ninth when Renteria complained from the dugout about a call on Jose Veras' 1-2 pitch to Jordy Mercer. Nelson called it a ball, but Renteria felt it was a strike. The umpire apparently heard enough, and signaled that the rookie manager was gone. Renteria came onto the field to discuss the matter further, but eventually retreated to the clubhouse.
What was the issue?
"That was between me and Jeff," Renteria said.
"He's a fiery guy," Cubs pitcher Edwin Jackson said of Renteria. "He's going to stand up for his team. He's going to speak for what he believes and fight for the guys in the clubhouse. He sees us out there battling. It's part of the game.
"If I do a better job as a starter, going deeper and keeping the score down, he doesn't have to get to that point," said Jackson, who gave up four runs in the first inning in the Cubs' 7-6 loss.
Ejection leads to learning experience for Baez
CHICAGO -- The development of Javier Baez continued this past weekend, and Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said the team's top prospect got an important lesson, thanks to his teammates.
Baez was hitless in his first nine at-bats at Triple-A Iowa and ejected from Saturday's game after arguing a checked swing third-strike call. He reportedly exchanged words and had an altercation in the dugout with teammate Eli Whiteside.
"He had a nice conversation with a teammate and that was a good thing," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said Tuesday. "It's a tremendously great learning experience."
Baez ended his hitless streak in style Sunday with a pinch-hit home run in the seventh inning.
"I think it was a great development and experience for him," Epstein said. "He started out not feeling real comfortable at the plate and he let it frustrate him, and he showed it on the field. His teammates, they know how good he can be and how good a teammate he can be and they called him out on it.
"He responded just the right way and took it to heart and came back the next day with a pinch-hit home run," Epstein said. "He's hit the ball hard in five straight plate appearances. He's taking the responsibility of being a good teammate and taking it to heart. Experiences like that will just help him get where he needs to be."
And this is part of the process Baez, 21, has to go through in the Minor Leagues.
"You want that stuff to happen down there," Epstein said. "It helps our players mature, so when they get up here, they can handle a broader set of experiences that are thrown at them."
Baez had struck out six times in his first nine at-bats. The Cubs know he won't get a hit every at-bat when he does get to the big leagues.
"It's more important how players respond to adversity," Epstein said. "You want everyone to go through adversity in the Minor Leagues, because it's important for them to learn how to deal with failure and make adjustments and come back even stronger, because that's the type of thing you have to deal with when you're breaking in in the big leagues."
UConn alum Olt enjoying Huskies' success
CHICAGO -- Mike Olt went to the University of Connecticut, and he was the school's all-time home run leader when he left in 2010. There was no way he was going to miss the Huskies in Monday's NCAA men's championship basketball game. There was just one catch.
"I didn't have cable," the Cubs third baseman said Tuesday. "So, I was driving around, and we found a small, little bar that had nobody in it, and the game was on, and I got some wings and watched it there. It was perfect. It was a fun game to watch."
Connecticut beat Kentucky for the title. Olt went to a few games when he attended the university.
"I haven't seen too many games live, but when I do, it's special," he said. "The fans they have are pretty incredible, too."
On Tuesday, the UConn women faced Notre Dame for the women's national basketball championship.
"They don't get enough credit, which is kind of sad," Olt said of the Connecticut women's team. "They've had some pretty remarkable teams, and the coaching is unbelievable and there's a reason why they're undefeated nearly every year. It's not easy. They just don't get enough credit, and that's too bad."
Renteria sticking with righty-lefty platoons for now
CHICAGO -- In the first seven games of the season, Cubs manager Rick Renteria has used a lefty-righty platoon at third base and in the outfield, and said he'll continue to do so.
"At this point, we're still allowing these guys the opportunity to use the splits that end up existing, righty-lefty," Renteria said. "At some point, these guys will end up playing against both righties and lefties."
So far, left-handed hitting Luis Valbuena, Ryan Sweeney and Ryan Kalish are starting against right-handers, while right-handed hitting Mike Olt and Junior Lake face the lefty starting pitchers. Emilio Bonifacio, a switch-hitter, usually moves to the outfield against southpaws.
At some point, though, Renteria said he will likely abandon the platoon. It depends on the players.
"It's the seventh game of the season today," Renteria said Tuesday. "As the season progresses, and I start to see them playing more and they have pinch-hit at-bats in the ballgame ... a lot of those things are giving me a lot of information and feedback leading me to where we might ultimately go."
Performance is key, he said.
"You might have someone say, 'Well, I can't perform unless I have four, five regular at-bats every single day,'" Renteria said. "The reality is every time you get an opportunity to hit, that's an opportunity. How good the at-bat is, how the approach is -- you don't have to get a hit to have a good approach. It could be a productive at-bat without getting a hit. You take all those factors into play and hopefully make the right decision."
• It's too early for Renteria to change his closer. Jose Veras still has the job, despite a shaky outing Sunday in which he couldn't finish the ninth.
"He had a situation there where he was working and wasn't able to command the zone as well as he wanted to, and he'll get an opportunity hopefully soon to get out there and close it out for us," Renteria said of Veras, who gave up two runs on four walks over two-thirds of an inning.
Last year, the Cubs used three different closers in April. Carlos Marmol was ineffective, Kyuji Fujikawa was injured, and then the team signed Kevin Gregg.
"I'll cross that bridge when I get to it," Renteria said when asked if he was considering switching. "Right now, it's really premature for me to make a decision to say I would change something. I have to see what's going to happen first."
• Jorge Soler, the Cubs' No. 5 prospect, is on the disabled list for Double-A Tennessee with a sore right hamstring.
"We need to make sure he's 100 percent before he gets back on the field," Epstein said Tuesday. "He didn't pull it again, but it obviously hasn't healed all the way. We want him on the field as much as anybody -- he needs the at-bats. We can't force it right now."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.