5/14/2014 9:30 P.M. ET
If needed, Barney excited for chance to pitch
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- On Monday, Cardinals infielder Daniel Descalso was needed to pitch in the ninth in the Cubs' 17-5 win. On Tuesday, as the Cubs and Cardinals played extra innings, Darwin Barney, Ryan Kalish and John Baker were discussing which one of them would take the mound if needed.
The last time the Cubs used a position player to pitch was Aug. 27, 2012, when Joe Mather did so against the Brewers in a 15-4 Chicago loss. Before the game, manager Rick Renteria said he wasn't sure whom he would call on.
A Gold Glove second baseman, Barney has experience pitching. He did so in high school and was going to pitch at Oregon State but an elbow injury limited him. In 2006, he pitched in relief for a collegiate USA team when it had a 12-run lead.
"Pitching was always a big part of my life, baseball-wise," Barney said Wednesday. "I would want to do it again."
But in the big leagues?
"Anywhere," he said. "When I'm done playing, I'm going to play in a men's league and I'll pitch. It'll be fun. Baseball's fun."
Was he jealous of Descalso?
"The guy was probably having the time of his life," Barney said. "Yeah, they're losing, but how many position players get to pitch in the big leagues? It would've been different in a 3-3 game, but if I did hold an inning, I would expect that save opportunity."
His repertoire includes a fastball, slider and change.
"I used to have a curveball," he said, "but I'm not sure I could control it anymore."
Veras returns refreshed; Rosscup lands on DL
ST. LOUIS -- Veteran reliever Jose Veras, sidelined with a strained left oblique, was activated and joined the Cubs on Wednesday in St. Louis and reliever Zac Rosscup was placed on the disabled list with left shoulder soreness.
Veras last pitched for the Cubs on April 24 and was then shut down. He made four rehab outings with Double-A Tennessee, and gave up one hit, two walks and struck out three over 4 2/3 innings. He started on Tuesday and retired all three batters he faced.
"I'm good to go and healthy, and that's the best part," Veras said. "Every pitch was there, my fastball, changeup, breaking ball."
With the Cubs, Veras served up 10 runs on six hits and 10 walks over 5 2/3 innings while striking out five in six games.
He lost his job as the closer after blowing a two-run lead against the Cardinals on April 11.
"He was the go-to guy in the bullpen for the Tigers in the postseason and didn't walk a guy," Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said. "Whether it was mechanics or a little bit of an injury, he got off track and needed to find it. Hopefully, after the little stint on the DL, his body feels good and he's ready to go."
Veras sounded as if he was starting the season over.
"It's a new day," Veras said. "The past is past. I've got to start over, and that's why I'm here. The best part is I'm healthy and good to go."
Does he want to be the closer again?
"As soon as I'm healthy, I can do my thing," Veras said. "I know who I am. I've been through a lot of things. I know who I am, I know what I can do."
Rosscup had trouble getting loose in the bullpen and has been dealing with the soreness in the shoulder for a few days. He will be examined in Chicago by team orthopedic specialist Dr. Stephen Gryzlo.
Prospect Bryant impresses Veras during rehab
ST. LOUIS -- Veteran reliever Jose Veras sounded like a Cubs fan when asked about top prospect Kris Bryant.
"He's unbelievable," Veras said Wednesday. "To see him play, to see [Jorge] Soler play, [Stephen] Bruno play. They're unbelievable players. They know how to play the game."
Veras watched the youngsters first-hand during a rehab assignment with Double-A Tennessee, which ended Tuesday night. He saw Bryant at his best. The third baseman, batting .324, was named the Southern League Hitter of the Week on Monday and leads the league in home runs (11) and RBIs (33). He belted No. 11 on Tuesday.
"He hit a homer and center field was 400 feet away and the wall was 40 feet high, and he hit it over that thing like nothing," Veras said. "It's unbelievable the power that he has."
The Cubs' front office has told prospects that they'll be promoted if they dominate at their current level. Bryant is definitely dominating.
"He's having a great year, and we have a number of guys on that team playing well," general manager Jed Hoyer said of Bryant, who was the team's No. 1 pick in last June's First-Year Player Draft. "[Promoting him] is not something we've talked about.
"I think it's important to know a ballpark you're going to, who your teammates are. He's a guy we drafted [last June] and went to [short-season] Boise, then [Class A Advanced] Daytona, then [the Arizona Fall League], then Tennessee. It's probably important to have a few ups and downs with the club before we have that discussion."
Bryant is ranked No. 2 on MLB.com's list of top Cubs prospects. Javier Baez, listed at No. 1, isn't having as much success at Triple-A Iowa and was batting .147 in 27 games with three homers and 11 RBIs. The shortstop batted .264 in the spring with five home runs.
"There probably is emotionally a little bit of a let down after you audition, if you will, in Spring Training, and you have the adrenaline, and then go down [to the Minors]," Hoyer said. "I think we're past that point. He's in a big slump and he'll have to figure his way out of it. He'll be stronger for having gone through this. ... Now it's a matter of Javy figuring out what he needs to do to get through this."
Bryant knows himself well, but Hoyer said the youngster still needs some guidance.
"He needs coaching besides himself," Hoyer said. "But knowing your own swing and knowing what makes you good is a big part of making you a good hitter."
The Cubs have been strugging offensively. Did Veras try to talk them into letting him bring Bryant up to the big leagues?
"I can't do that," Veras said, laughing. "The only thing I did was try to worry about was being healthy and throwing strikes. Everybody loved him, he's an unbelievable teammate. He's humble, he's a leader on the team. He's an unbelievable player."
Hoyer scouting players for next month's Draft
ST. LOUIS -- Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer will be attending some conference baseball tournaments next week as the team continues its preparations for the June 5 First-Year Player Draft. The Cubs have the fourth pick overall.
"Everything starts to come into focus more and you start to get more excited about it," said Hoyer, who will take part in meetings with scouts and other front-office staff next week.
There's been a lot of talk about the Cubs' prospects such as Kris Bryant, last year's No. 2 overall pick, as well as about who the team will select next month.
"I think I'll be really happy when we talk about our team only," Hoyer said of the big league team, which closes a rain-shortened series with the Cardinals on Thursday. "I totally understand why people want to talk about the future and why people want to ask about our prospects and ask about the Draft.
"We are building for the future. [The media] asks me at the Trade Deadline -- I can't wait for you to ask me about who we're going to acquire and not who we're going to trade. It's understandable. Hopefully we evolve past that, and we stop talking about guys in Triple-A and Double-A and we talk about last night's game."
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.