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Veras out as closer after latest blown save

ST. LOUIS -- Cubs manager Rick Renteria met with Jose Veras Saturday morning and told the right-hander that as of now, Veras is no longer the closer and will be used in non-save situations to try to get back on track.

Veras blew a two-run lead on Friday against the Cardinals and is 0-2 in save situations so far.

"I was just telling him we believe in him and we'll try to find spots where he can continue to work through things he needs to work to get better," Renteria said of his talk in his office.

If this scenario sounds familiar to Cubs fans, it's because last year, closer Carlos Marmol lost the job after struggling in the first week of the season, and was eventually traded. Kyuji Fujikawa took over until an elbow injury required Tommy John surgery. Kevin Gregg was picked up after being released by the Dodgers, and finished with 33 saves.

"He's proven when he throws strikes, he gets guys out," Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said of Veras. "We've seen it as a closer, we've seen it in the playoffs. Once he gets back in the strike zone, I think he'll be fine. I just think the ball's not in the strike zone enough."

In four games so far, Veras has given up two hits and walked seven over 3 2/3 innings. He knows there's a problem.

"I don't have an answer," Veras said. "I can't find myself. It's kind of tough. I feel I'm good, my body feels good. I'm not hurt, I'm 100 percent healthy, thank God. For some reason, I can't get three down. I've got to get going. Today is a new day and [I need to] find a way to get out of there.

"Everybody has been in that position. ... I know how to handle it, I'm not going to put my head down," Veras said. "A couple bad outings, hopefully it's going to stop. If it doesn't, I'm going to keep fighting, keep working. I'll never give up, brother. My stuff is there. For some reason, I can't get it done. I try to pitch inside, hit a guy, try to throw front-door breaking ball, hit a guy. Make good pitches, and they don't swing at them. Make good pitches, and I don't receive a call by the guy behind home plate. There's too much stuff at the same time. It's no excuse. I've got to get the job done."

Who will be the Cubs closer? That's to be determined on a game-by-game situation. Among the options are Pedro Strop, Hector Rondon and Justin Grimm.

"Right now what we're going to do is see who emerges," Renteria said. "We'll use some of our other guys. We need to help [Veras] 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."

Renteria made the decision after talking with Veras.

"You have to be able to talk to your players and kind of get a feel where they're at before you make decisions," Renteria said.

Veras, who the Cubs signed to a one-year contract this offseason after he pitched for the Astros and Tigers last season, is not used to this.

"Seventeen years in pro baseball, and my first time I've been in this position," he said. "I feel good. I feel 100 percent. I worked enough in Spring Training and the offseason, and the season starts and I can't get the job done. I feel like I'm a warrior and I can handle it. I will step up and look up and keep going."

Veras was hoping Renteria would call on him Saturday.

"I want the ball today," Veras said. "That's the only way you can get out of this. You can't get out of this sitting at home, sitting on the bench. I'm going to be there. I'm good to go today. If I get the ball today, I will be 100 percent with my heart to try to do my job."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.
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