Renteria not yet sold on batting Cubs pitchers higher
BY GORDON WITTENMYER Staff Reporter May 11, 2014 9:42PM
Updated: May 11, 2014 11:29PM
ATLANTA — Cubs manager Rick Renteria saw the Atlanta Braves do it throughout the weekend series against the Cubs. Tony La Russa did it for years when he had Albert Pujols in the St. Louis Cardinals’ lineup.
But if anybody should consider moving the pitcher up from the No. 9 spot in the batting order, shouldn’t it be the run-starved Cubs, who actually have two or three good-hitting pitchers?
‘‘Actually, that’s a good question,’’ said Renteria, whose team scored just four runs in getting swept by the Braves. ‘‘I know that if you have a couple of pitchers that can hit, it probably isn’t as much of a disadvantage as you might think.
‘‘I’d have to look at it more closely, but I know the thinking is to get the best hitter in your lineup as many opportunities to be able to drive in runs [as possible].’’
The Cubs don’t exactly have a Pujols in the middle of their order, so maybe that’s why Renteria isn’t using the strategy that Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez began employing a week ago to roust his slumbering lineup.
What the Cubs do have are pitchers such as Jeff Samardzija, whose double and run scored Monday were the only hit and run against White Sox starter Jose Quintana. They have pitcher Travis Wood, whose hitting is respected enough that the Cubs have used him to pinch-hit and who had as many or more RBI (four) as four Cubs in Sunday’s lineup and more home runs (one) than the entire starting outfield.
Even Sunday’s starter, Edwin Jackson, singled in his first at-bat and lined out in his second.
So what would it take for Renteria to reconsider his allegiance to baseball convention and move a pitcher out of the nine hole?
‘‘I don’t know what it would take,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m not thinking about it right now at all.’’
If Samardzija’s start Saturday against the Braves was any indication, the team that trades for him this summer might get an even better version than the one with the second-best ERA in the majors (1.45).
The big right-hander still doesn’t have a victory in eight starts this year — 14 straight going back to last August. But on Saturday, he regained command and feel of the cut fastball that had been elusive all season. It helped get him seven strikeouts in six scoreless, efficient innings.
‘‘We’ve been kind of chasing it for this whole season,’’ he said. ‘‘I haven’t really had it. It was more just kind of a show pitch. But then [catcher Welington Castillo] kept calling it. So I figured something must be up with it, and it was pretty good.’’