ST. LOUIS — Less than 12 hours after Rick Renteria declared Jose Veras is “still our guy,” the Cubs manager moved onto other options for the ninth inning.
Renteria met with Veras on Saturday morning and told him he’s out as closer. Veras had another meltdown late Friday night at Busch Stadium, forcing the Cubs to go 11 innings to beat the St. Louis Cardinals, wearing out a bullpen already running on fumes.
“We’re going to see who emerges,” Renteria said. “We’re going to use some of our other guys. We need to help him 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.”
Pedro Strop has been viewed as a potential future closer, while Justin Grimm and Hector Rondon helped bail out Veras by combining for two scoreless innings in Friday’s 6-3 win. The Cubs also reinforced their bullpen by calling up lefty Chris Rusin and optioning right-hander Brian Schlitter to Triple-A Iowa.
Veras says he’s “100 percent” healthy now. But he didn’t look right in spring training and those control issues didn’t go away when the lights went on for the regular season. Veras has blown two saves in four appearances, given up five runs while walking seven and hitting three.
“For some reason, I can’t get three outs right now,” Veras said. “I got to keep going. Today is a new day. Just find a way to get out of this. I know how to handle it. I’m not going to put my head down. It’s a couple bad outings. I hope it’s going to stop one day. I’m going to keep fighting. I’ll never give up, brother.”
General manager Jed Hoyer discussed the Veras situation with Renteria. But Hoyer said Renteria made the decision after sleeping on it. This time, it only took 10 games into the season. Dale Sveum dropped Carlos Marmol after five games last year.
“It’s a volatile position,” Hoyer said. “You look around baseball and we’re not the only team that’s gone through it. We’re not even the first one this year and it’s April 12.
“You always want a clean ninth inning — for all of our hearts and our hair. It’s a lot easier (that way). But this is not anomalous. It happens. Hopefully, we can start closing games out in the ninth.”
This winter, the Cubs signed Veras to a one-year, $4 million deal (plus an option) with the idea they could build his value as a closer and flip him to a contending team looking for bullpen help. Veras saved 19 games for the Houston Astros last season before getting traded to the Detroit Tigers.
Judging by the backlash on Twitter, Cubs fans were going to lose patience fast after watching the Marmol rollercoaster. Veras got booed off the mound during his Wrigley Field debut last weekend but insisted that closing for the Cubs is nothing different.
“You got to get your job done, no matter where you go,” Veras said. “That’s why you get paid. That’s why you get a contract. Any player here goes out onto the field with everything they got to try to be successful. Don’t think anybody here goes out there like they don’t care. Everybody here cares.”