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Justin Grimm has eye on Cubs’ closer job

ST. LOUIS — Justin Grimm always has seen himself as a starting pitcher. Until the Texas Rangers traded him to the Cubs last summer, all 18 of his appearances last year were as a starter, all but one in the big leagues.

“Then I showed up [for spring training], and they said they wanted to see me out of the bullpen,” Grimm said of the Cubs’ staff, “and I just got fired up about it.”

All of a sudden, just two weeks into the season, the hard-throwing right-hander has another reason to get fired up: The closer job is wide open, and he’s one of three who figure to get a shot at it while demoted closer Jose Veras tries to regain his command.

“I don’t know what’s going on with that. All I know is I’m just going to be ready when I get the ball, whenever it is,” he said.

However, he acknowledged that the thought of closing “definitely creeps into your mind.”

Manager Rick Renteria said he’ll “play it by ear” for now, with Grimm, Pedro Strop and ­Hector Rondon comprising his top ­choices.

Grimm and Strop are tied for third in the majors with seven appearances. Grimm and Rondon (six games) have yet to give up a run.

“For me, if I ever get settled, I just want to have an important role on the pitching staff, wherever that might be,” said Grimm, 25, who’s looking for his first full season in the big leagues. “Either the beginning or the end. I think that’s just all determined on me. I control that destiny, I believe.”

He still has that image of himself as a big-league starting pitcher firmly in his mind. But if he were to get a shot at closing and were to develop into a reliable one, he could let that go.

“When you start having a lot of success at something, you just kind of run with it,” Grimm said. “You don’t want to make too many changes here and there. And ­obviously going from the bullpen to a starting job would be a ­significant change. I think I have the work ethic to do it. I’ve got it in my back pocket if I ever need it, to go back.

“But as long as I’m having success in the bullpen, maybe one day closing could be an option. We’ll just have to see.”

NOTES: Javy Baez, the Cubs’ top prospect, went on Class AAA Iowa’s seven-day disabled list after turning his ankle Friday while taking fielding practice.

◆ The Cubs recalled right-hander Blake Parker to join the bullpen Sunday after sending out lefty Chris Rusin on Saturday following Rusin’s five-inning relief outing.

Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com

Twitter: @GDubCub



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