Closer By Committee, the Roster Shuffle and Cubs News and Notes

Rick Renteria announced prior to Saturday’s game that Jose Veras would not be closing games for the Cubs, at least for now. Jose Veras carried a rough spring into the regular season and simply cannot throw enough strikes to close games. Veras has never been known for his command, but he has not struggled to the extent he has this year during his career.

Renteria will play matchups late in games when his team has the lead for now. Which means Pedro Strop, Justin Grimm and Hector Rondon will have opportunities to close out games. Strop already has one save under his belt this year while Grimm picked up his first win in a Cubs’ uniform on Friday night with Rondon earning his first big league save.

The Cubs sent one reliever out prior to Saturday’s game and recalled another one after the game. Brian Schlitter was optioned down to Iowa to make room on the active roster for Chris Rusin. After Rusin threw five innings in relief of Carlos Villanueva, Rusin was optioned out to make room for Blake Parker. The Cubs will officially recall Parker from Iowa prior to Sunday’s game.

The Cubs have two intriguing relievers down on the farm that should be able to help at the big league level at some point this season. Neil Ramirez was impressive in the spring and he is back on track after a rough first outing with Iowa. Arodys Vizcaino is throwing smoke out of the D-Cubs’ pen and is healthy. The front office is being cautious with Vizcaino and has him on a strict program. Vizcaino hit 98 mph on the gun with his fastball and 96 mph with sink on Thursday night and threw his slider in the mid-80s.

Jed Hoyer and Rick Renteria discussed the closer situation after Friday’s game. Renteria told Hoyer he wanted to sleep on it before he made a decision. Renteria made the decision to remove Jose Veras from the closer’s role, for now.

Jake Arrieta

Jake Arrieta completed his second rehab start Thursday. Arrieta threw 66 pitches, 40 for strikes, over 3 2/3 scoreless innings. Arrieta gave up three singles, walked two batters and struck out three.

The Cubs said Friday that Arrieta will make his next rehab outing with the Smokies.

Jake Arrieta likely needs two more rehab outings before he is ready to join the Cubs’ rotation. Jed Hoyer said Saturday the team will not rush Arrieta back in April or set meaningless deadlines for his return. The Cubs want to make sure he is ready to return before activating him from the disabled list.

The Cubs will re-evaluate where Arrieta is in the rehab process after his next outing.

Lo Viste

Jon Greenberg asked Emilio Bonifacio what ‘lo viste’ means. Bonifacio explained that when a player looks back to the dugout and shows a sideways ‘V’ over his eye after getting a hit, that is ‘lo viste’ or did you see it.

Starlin Castro told Greenberg his teammates “enjoy it a lot.”

Tyler Kolek

The Houston Chronicle reported Theo Epstein was on hand to watch Texas high schooler Tyler Kolek on Friday. The right-handed, 6-foot-5, 250-pound Kolek is considered to be one of the top high school pitchers that will be available in the upcoming draft, along with lefty Brady Allen of Cathedral Catholic High School in San Diego. Kolek’s fastball has been clocked at 101 mph.

The Tribune reported Friday was at least the second time “a high ranking Cubs talent evaluator has scouted Kolek in the last five weeks.” Matt Dorey watched Kolek pitch on March 6.

The front office will reportedly meet with the team’s top talent evaluators on Monday to “discuss candidates for their picks in the first four rounds.” Theo Epstein is expected to see more players the team could select in June’s draft after Monday’s meeting.

News and Notes

Wesley Wright has not appeared in a game since April 4 and the team says nothing is wrong with Wright. He got hot on Friday night but did not make an appearance in the game. And according to a report from ESPN Chicago, Wright was available on Saturday but Rick Renteria decided to let Chris Rusin pitch the eighth instead.

The Rangers announced Thursday they signed catcher Chris Gimenez to a minor league contract. The Cubs were reportedly one of the teams interested in signing him.

The Iowa Cubs placed LHP Jonathan Sanchez on the disabled list.

The Iowa Cubs added outfielder Jae-Hoon Ha to their active roster on Friday.

A Starlin Castro stat courtesy of David Kaplan and Tony Andracki Starlin Castro at age 24 years and 17 days has 705 hits at the big league level. Pete Rose at the exact same age had 331 hits. Derek Jeter had 558 hits through his age 24 season.

Christopher Kamka posted another one of his excellent stats regarding Junior Lake’s leadoff home run. Junior Lake became the first Cubs’ player since Mark Bellhorn (July 26, 2002) to leadoff a game in St. Louis with a home run. Bellhorn took Chuck Finley deep to start the game nearly 12 years ago.

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Quote of the Day

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  • John_CC

    If the Kapman is correct on that stat re Casto’s hit total in comparison, well that is flat out stunning.

    I admit to being hard on him and beginning to doubt his ability to mature over the course of last season. But he has put a lot of that doubt to rest with his start to this season. In fact he may be taking the step forward we all have been waiting for. If indeed he continues to grow and learn from his experiences with adversity and failure last year, this could be an important season on his career.

    • laredo

      So agree. Amazing what a little less job security can do for his demeanor. Think he feels Baez breathing down his neck? I firmly believe Baez will be our next 2nd basemen unless they decide to flip Olt, move JB to 3rd, and Bryant ends up in the outfield. Personally I can’t wait for Olt’s shoulder to mend so we can see him get some consistent playing time and a lot more at bats. Gotta figure he’s gonna strike out a lot but with that is going to come some tremendous power numbers. I mutter unpleasant things whenever I see Valbuena’s name in the lineup.

      • Eugene Debs

        I have doubts that Olt is a keeper. I hope I’m wrong.

        • Tony_H

          I am with you, I am not sure he is a keeper or even if he does show to be a major league starter, not sure he will not be traded to make room for Baez at 3B.

          I think they would love for him to reach his potential and have to figure out where to put Baez and Alcantara if they both make it up this year.

          • J Daniel

            Agree. It looks like Alcantara is a really good guy to have at 2b. But if Baez is at 2b you now have possibly the premier hitting 2b in the game which can greatly impact lineup production.

          • John_CC

            I think they would love for him to reach his potential so he can be traded for pitching. I have always had this feeling about him, but that’s just me.
            No doubt the general hope is to be overloaded with professional infielders.

        • cubtex

          Still don’t understand the rush to start him in the majors this year. He didn’t hit righties well in ST. He couldn’t play 3rd base because of his shoulder. Why not give him consistent AB’s in AAA where he can DH on some days his shoulder is acting up and let him play against ALL RH and LH pitchers?

          • Tom U

            cubtex, I went over this before. Due to the schedule, Iowa will not need to use a DH until May 19 at Round Rock. Therefore, sending Olt down to Triple-A would be pointless and mess up some of the other prospects.

          • cubtex

            Ok but 1st base is wide open. He could have easily got AB’s there without messing with any prospects. Who cares about Lars Anderson or Vakaika

          • Neil

            The Cubs and pretty much all of baseball consider Olt as a third baseman, not a first baseman. He’s got to play on both sides, just not hit.

    • Tony_H

      Castro has looked very good this year both at the plate and in the field. Young players can take time to click and failure is a part of learning and getting better.

      • J Daniel

        Often times guys are moved before they mature and then the team regrets it. Castro can flat out hit. They tried to change is approach which is what got him goofed up. Had they just let him be he would have even more hits.

        It is going to be interesting on what they ultimately decide to do with him. Do they keep him, keep him at short, and fill in other spots. Do they trade him when his value has increased again, which he is doing?

        • Tony_H

          I think long term, what Castro worked on last year will help him. I know many people think the goal was for him to walk more, but it was on learning to lay off pitchers pitches and get a pitch he could drive. I have noticed him not weakly grounding out to 2B by swinging early in the count at a low and away pitch like he did most of his career. Just reducing the amount of times he does that will be a very good move for his career numbers.

          • J Daniel

            No question about it. Age, maturity, and experience all play an impact.

            The other huge impact is the type of team he was brought into. He might be much further along if he we are Cardinal and had all of the great leadership around on really saw how things are supposed to be done.

            Let’s remember, he was brought into a huge mess.

          • John_CC

            Hmmm…from what I’ve read, last year “they” completely ruined him. And now you’re telling me that it might have taught him something that will payoff in the long run? ☺

          • Tony_H

            Does he look ruined? :)

          • John_CC

            “Team Theo” isn’t done with him yet! I mean he is kind of interfering with the big plan right now…losing on purpose is harder with all those mulit-hit games.

            Now it makes sense! That is why they tried to ruin him, to lose more games!

          • Theboardrider

            If I remember Castro had personal crisis one after another in the offseason leading into last year. Wasn’t he facing charges the first months of the season in his home country? That may have cntributed to him being a tad off his game.

          • Ripsnorter1

            “They” had him so messed up from June 2012 to the end of last year that it was doubtful that he’d recover. And it is early yet…no guarantee that he is fully recovered just yet.

      • John_CC

        Yep. Dare we call it experience? Ha!

    • Ripsnorter1

      I am a big Castro supporter. I think it has been proven conclusively that the Cubs’ attempt to mess with Castro from June 2012 to the end of last year was the cause of his decline.

      Still…this is April, and the pitchers are not yet 100%. I will reserve judgement upon his 100% return from the mental confusion caused by Team Theo until June. Lots of players can hit the fastball, but it is Castro’s ability to hit the nasty breaking stuff that will prove his full return, in my book.

      • cubtex

        It is obvious the negative effect Sveum had on several of the Cubs players the last 2 years. Huge difference. They look like they are having fun and playing loose.

        • Theboardrider

          Sexual assault charges may have hurt how lose he felt like playing too.

          • Ripsnorter1

            Castro certainly is not helping himself by his personal life.

      • Theboardrider

        “Proven conclusively,” like by scientific method, with a hypothesis, results and conclusions? I’d like to see that report published in the New England Journal.

        • Ripsnorter1

          Ok. You are right. It was all Castro. The coaching was perfect all along. And that’s why they fired Sveum. It was Castro. And Theo was right to fire Sveum. He was right to hire Sveum. Both were totally brilliant moves.

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  • Ripsnorter1

    According to 670theScore, Mr. Renteria has asked to be called “Ricky.”

    I heard that last week.

    • cubtex

      You can call him Rich, Rick, Richard or skip……but you doesn’t have to call him Ricky! :)

  • Tom U

    Good Morning! Today’s minor league notes:

    With a hot start, including 3 home runs and a .281 average, Dustin Geiger may be this year’s Arismendy Alcantara for the national scouting media.

    Better late than never: Although 24 and 22 years of age, Juan Carlos Paniagua and Gerardo Concepcion are beginning to make up for lost time with Kane County. Paniagua has done well in the 2 games he has started, striking out 10 with a 3.38 ERA in 8 innings. Paniagua will have to reduce his pitch count and increase his innings in order to advance. After a horrible first outing, Concepcion has settled down to hold the opposition scoreless and strike out five in his next two appearances, lasting a total of five innings.

    Expect to hear a lot more about Carlos Penalver in the coming weeks. The shortstop has always been considered the best defensive infielder in the system. He is proving that with Kane County and has boosted his average to .306 with 4 stolen bases. Penalver has been moved from ninth in the order to either the lead-off or #2 spot, for now.

    Iowa has been having greater success this season mainly due to its pitching. The I-Cubs lead the PCL with a 1.13 WHIP and 98 strikeouts, while placing 7th (out of 16) with a 4.35 team ERA.

    • Tony_H

      Great update! I am going to the Iowa Cubs game on Tuesday night. Any idea who will be the starting pitcher?

      • Tom U

        Kyle Hendricks has been posted for Tuesday on the I-Cubs’ website

        • Tony_H

          That is who I was hoping to see pitch. Thanks.

  • cubtex

    Some of the big bashers are off to a great start. Jose Abreu looks like the real deal with the Chi Sox. Trumbo, Gio Stanton. Stanton hit 2 absolute bombs last night.

  • cubtex

    Glad to hear Theo scouted Kolek. He should have called me and I would have met him in Houston :) There was a lot of talk on the pitch count for Rodon the other night. Remember…they throw only once a week so it is not as big a deal as it is in the majors. He reportedly was at 95 on his last pitch. Many scouts were quoted as saying that this was the Rodon they were waiting to see all year. I really hope this kid slips to the Cubs. He will be on the fast track to the majors.

    • BigJonLilJon

      Agreed… would rather see a college pitcher with some maturity over a high schooler going to them at 1.4

      • Theboardrider

        I agree, but he may be the next Shelby Miller. He made it up pretty quickly.