4/12/2014 6:26 P.M. ET
Veras out as closer after latest blown save
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- Cubs manager Rick Renteria met with Jose Veras Saturday morning and told the right-hander that as of now, Veras is no longer the closer and will be used in non-save situations to try to get back on track.
Veras blew a two-run lead on Friday against the Cardinals and is 0-2 in save situations so far.
"I was just telling him we believe in him and we'll try to find spots where he can continue to work through things he needs to work to get better," Renteria said of his talk in his office.
If this scenario sounds familiar to Cubs fans, it's because last year, closer Carlos Marmol lost the job after struggling in the first week of the season, and was eventually traded. Kyuji Fujikawa took over until an elbow injury required Tommy John surgery. Kevin Gregg was picked up after being released by the Dodgers, and finished with 33 saves.
"He's proven when he throws strikes, he gets guys out," Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said of Veras. "We've seen it as a closer, we've seen it in the playoffs. Once he gets back in the strike zone, I think he'll be fine. I just think the ball's not in the strike zone enough."
In four games so far, Veras has given up two hits and walked seven over 3 2/3 innings. He knows there's a problem.
"I don't have an answer," Veras said. "I can't find myself. It's kind of tough. I feel I'm good, my body feels good. I'm not hurt, I'm 100 percent healthy, thank God. For some reason, I can't get three down. I've got to get going. Today is a new day and [I need to] find a way to get out of there.
"Everybody has been in that position. ... I know how to handle it, I'm not going to put my head down," Veras said. "A couple bad outings, hopefully it's going to stop. If it doesn't, I'm going to keep fighting, keep working. I'll never give up, brother. My stuff is there. For some reason, I can't get it done. I try to pitch inside, hit a guy, try to throw front-door breaking ball, hit a guy. Make good pitches, and they don't swing at them. Make good pitches, and I don't receive a call by the guy behind home plate. There's too much stuff at the same time. It's no excuse. I've got to get the job done."
Who will be the Cubs closer? That's to be determined on a game-by-game situation. Among the options are Pedro Strop, Hector Rondon and Justin Grimm.
"Right now what we're going to do is see who emerges," Renteria said. "We'll use some of our other guys. We need to help [Veras] work through some things right now. I told him I have all the confidence in the world in him and I think he'll be back."
Renteria made the decision after talking with Veras.
"You have to be able to talk to your players and kind of get a feel where they're at before you make decisions," Renteria said.
Veras, who the Cubs signed to a one-year contract this offseason after he pitched for the Astros and Tigers last season, is not used to this.
"Seventeen years in pro baseball, and my first time I've been in this position," he said. "I feel good. I feel 100 percent. I worked enough in Spring Training and the offseason, and the season starts and I can't get the job done. I feel like I'm a warrior and I can handle it. I will step up and look up and keep going."
Veras was hoping Renteria would call on him Saturday.
"I want the ball today," Veras said. "That's the only way you can get out of this. You can't get out of this sitting at home, sitting on the bench. I'm going to be there. I'm good to go today. If I get the ball today, I will be 100 percent with my heart to try to do my job."
Rusin gives needed relief in brief stint from Triple-A
ST. LOUIS -- The Cubs restocked the bullpen Saturday when they added Chris Rusin, and are expected to make another move on Sunday after the lefty delivered five innings in relief.
Rusin was recalled from Triple-A Iowa prior to Saturday's game, and reliever Brian Schlitter was optioned to Iowa to make room.
The Cubs have played three extra-inning games in the first 10 and wanted depth, especially Saturday with Carlos Villanueva starting. Villanueva lasted three innings Saturday, and Rusin finished up, giving up one run on three hits over five innings in a 10-4 St. Louis win.
"We need some length," manager Rick Renteria said. "We've used the pen a lot."
Rusin, 27, was 0-2 with a 6.52 ERA in two starts with Iowa, and had been scheduled to start Sunday against Memphis. Instead, he was to rejoin the team as he was optioned back to Iowa. The Cubs were expected to recall right-handed reliever Blake Parker on Sunday.
Red-hot Bonifacio gets a break from Cubs' lineup
ST. LOUIS -- Emilio Bonifacio began Saturday leading the Major Leagues in hits, but manager Rick Renteria decided it was a good time to give the versatile player a breather.
Bonifacio had started in the Cubs' first 10 games, and was the leadoff man. On Saturday, Junior Lake filled in, hitting the first pitch from St. Louis' Adam Wainwright to left for a home run.
Bonifacio was batting .435, which ranks among the top five National League batters.
"When someone is as hot as he is, you'd love to have him in there all the time," Renteria said. "We've played a lot of night games and extra-inning games, and he's on the bases a lot. Guys when they're on the bases a lot, there's a little wear and tear on the body. You want to be mindful of that."
Bonifacio also has seven stolen bases, the most in the Majors. He is closing in on the Cubs' record for most steals in March and April of 12, which Brian McRae set in 1996.
Renteria has used a variety of lineups so far, but Bonifacio has been the constant at the top of the order.
"I'm pretty comfortable and confident with all the guys we have, obviously," Renteria said. "'Boni' has been playing every single day. We've got some guys we'd like to get out there and have them perform against some of these guys, too."
Cubs begin process of honing in on Draft strategy
ST. LOUIS -- The Cubs have the fourth pick overall in the June 5 First-Year Player Draft, and the scouts and crosscheckers met last Monday in Chicago to go over their strategy, general manager Jed Hoyer said Saturday.
"We're trying to make sure we get looks at the right guys," Hoyer said. "It was a chance to gather for a day and figure out if we're light in certain areas or if we need to focus on certain guys. We're a couple months away and a lot has to shake out."
And a lot can change in the next couple of months.
"We're dealing with 18-year-old kids and 21-year-old kids, and when that's the case, guys can really improve in a hurry and guys can get hurt," Hoyer said. "One of the biggest challenges with pitching is you think a guy won't be there in the second round, but all of a sudden he has an arm injury or his velocity dips, and we might well be looking at him and we have to make an educated decision. That is a real challenge."
The Cubs have the 45th selection in the second round, so they're also looking beyond the first pick. They're not in a position to narrow the list down to a final 25, Hoyer said.
"That may be different a month from now or six weeks from now," he said.
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.