Cubs manager Rick Renteria has indicated that newly acquired Jose Veras will enter the season as the clubs closer. Renteria will use the spring to determine his set-up man, as well as finalize a few spots in the bullpen.
Last season the idea of Pedro Strop closing was broached, and that is still a future possibility, but Veras will get the ball in the ninth to start 2014. It also got messy when the communication between Kevin Gregg and Dale Svuem broke down leading to a public outburst from Gregg.
Veras is a hard thrower, and gets a fair amount of strikeouts (60 in 62.2 IP last season). But like any closer, when he gets off track, the simplest task seems to become a tough wrong to right. He did however post 21 saves last season between Detroit and Houston, as well as posting a solid 3.02 ERA. He will again fall into one of those low risk, high reward signings as the Cubs really had no solid option, even though Kevin Gregg performed admirably last season.
Managers very often will say things going into camp as more psychological ploys than anything. Keep Veras focused by letting know it’s his job. Don’t press too hard, and work his way in to the organization smoothly. This is of course theory. Some managers choose to encourage competition in camp by not designating anyone as a “sure thing”.
Whatever the case, if Veras pitches well, he may be another arm the Cubs look to cash in on come July. Strop has the tools to take over the job, but it’s more about experience and mindset that he’ll have to develop. All that starts today as pitchers and catchers have reported to camp.