I said earlier this week that it was too early to have the discussion about Jose Veras being yanked as closer, but that if there was another horrible outing, maybe it would be ok to have the discussion. Well, here we are.
Last night, Jose Veras came on for a two-run save, and proceeded to give up a hit, plunk two batters (one of which didn’t look like a HBP to me, but it was reviewed and upheld), throw a wild pitch (that was ruled a passed ball, but come on), and walk a guy. In the process, he’d blown his second save opportunity of the year, and looked terrifyingly ineffective in the process.
So, what does Ricky Renteria say about his closer after the game?
“Shaky outing, but he’s still our guy. It’s too early to decide anything like that.” (ESPN, CSN, Tribune) Renteria added that Veras’s “stuff is there, but I think he just gets a little excited. He starts pulling some pitches. He overthrows pitches. He just has to find his rhythm.” Not for nothing, but a closer that gets a little excited and starts overthrowing is the very definition of a guy you don’t want closing. That’s supposed to be the whole thing about closers: they don’t get excited or rattled.
Now, I sound hypercritical, but I don’t mean to be just yet. I’m not going to say RR is wrong here, but neither am I going to say he’s right. The thing about Veras’s struggles is this: it’s not like he looks good out there, and is just falling victim to some bad BABIP luck. Instead, he flashes good stuff occasionally (mostly out of the zone), and he’s otherwise throwing the ball everywhere but the catcher’s mitt. Those are the kinds of performances that make you nervous as you look ahead to planning for player roles.
On the other hand, I understand the desire, at both a managerial and organizational level, to keep Veras in the closer role. He has been very good in the past, he was signed to be the closer, and he could generate value at the trade deadline if he turns things around. You want to show confidence in your players, and, for better or worse, players really buy into these “roles.” Plus, it’s not like Pedro Strop hasn’t been without a little shake lately, too. Hector Rondon is looking mighty good, but maybe that discussion is still another rough Veras outing away.
That’s why I land on the “can’t rip the decision, but can’t applaud it either.” The Cubs committed to this guy, and it’s only April 12, and only four outings. You don’t want to be too reactionary, and you also don’t want to be too slow on the draw. Tough spot, I suppose. RR is facing a lot of those already this year.