<
>

Renteria on closer Veras: 'He's still our guy'

4/12/2014

ST. LOUIS -- Chicago Cubs manager Rick Renteria is sticking with Jose Veras as his closer despite Veras' second blown save in as many chances this season.

"Shaky outing, but he’s still our guy," Renteria said after the Cubs eventually won 6-3 in 11 innings against the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday night. "It’s too early to decide anything like that."

The Cubs were leading 3-1 in the ninth when Veras gave up two runs on a hit, a walk and two hit batters to send his ERA skyrocketing to 12.27.

"His stuff is there, but I think he just gets a little excited," Renteria said. "He starts pulling some pitches. He overthrows pitches. He just has to find his rhythm."

The problem is Veras hasn’t found his rhythm since the Cubs signed him to a one-year, $4 million deal with a team option for another one.

He was just as bad in spring training as he is now, but the Cubs chose to ignore the signs, claiming the veteran knew how to get himself ready for the season. In 3⅔ innings pitched so far this season, he’s given up two hits and seven walks to go along with three hit batters.

"What happened to him has happened to everybody," Cubs catcher Welington Castillo said. "I talked to him, 'Just keep your head up.'"

The Cubs had a similar problem at the beginning of last season when Carlos Marmol struggled just as he did in spring training of 2013. Marmol lost his job on the first Saturday of that season.

Renteria is in dangerous territory when it comes to the psyche of his team.

It’s one thing when a middle reliever struggles in a matchup, as James Russell did on Thursday against the Pittsburgh Pirates in a Cubs loss. It’s quite another thing if someone is blowing games at the very end when the Cubs are about to win. And to allow it to happen at the hands of a player who has struggled since the first days of spring training is just asking for trouble.

Castillo gets the thanks

Maybe Veras will get to keep his job for at least one more day because the Cubs actually ended up winning the game on Friday due to Castillo’s three-run home run in the 11th inning.

"I was looking for a fastball," Castillo said. "I was just looking for something over the plate that I can drive and put my best swing on."

Castillo caught all 11 innings Friday, just as he did all 16 last week against the Pirates in an extra-inning affair. His maturity is starting to show, as he helped reliever Hector Rondon to his first career save. Rondon pitched the 11th.

"I said, 'Hey, I’m here to help you. We need to work together.'" Castillo said. "'I’m going to try and do all that I can to help you save the game.'"