ST. LOUIS -- The Chicago Cubs almost expected Javier Baez to fall into a lull after a promising spring training. And after he was optioned to Triple-A Iowa, he experienced a bit of an emotional letdown.
"But we're past that point," general manager Jed Hoyer said calmly on Wednesday.
Baez, the Cubs' top prospect who hit 37 home runs with 111 RBIs last summer, is batting only .147 with 43 strikeouts in 102 at-bats at Iowa. He's in a 1-for-19 slump with nine strikeouts after a three-hit game on May 7.
"He's in a big slump and will have to figure his way out of it," Hoyer said. "He'll be stronger for having to go through this. When you send a guy out, (he can struggle) for a while. But we're past that and it's a matter of Javy figuring out what he needs to do."
Wondering about wins: Hoyer seems mystified that Jeff Samardzija being winless in eight starts has overshadowed his ascent to one of the top pitchers in the National League.
"In general, (wins) is a stat we all have moved away from, and unfortunately it's a big story because he's now breaking records with his winless streak," Hoyer said of Samardzija, who has a 1.45 ERA but hasn't won in his last 14 starts dating to Aug. 24.
"By the way he has pitched, he has been as good as anyone in the National League, and people recognize it. It would be nice if he doesn't have his best stuff, and we picked him up (with a win)."
Veras ready: Jose Veras, who allowed 10 runs in 52/3 innings in six games, is back and eager to contribute in any way. He lost his closer's role after less than two weeks.
"Feels good to go, brothers," Veras said after pitching in four games on a rehab assignment at Double-A Tennessee. "Every pitch was there -- fastball, changeup, breaking ball. This is a new scenario."
Veras refused to say if he wanted his closer's role back.
"I can be in any spot," Veras said. "I'm not fighting for a spot. I'm fighting for three outs."
It's good Veras is back as the Cubs placed left-handed reliever Zac Rosscup on the disabled list with left shoulder soreness.
Hoyer aboard: Hoyer plans to accompany the Cubs on their trip to San Diego on May 22-25, which will allow him to see as many as four top prospects for the June 5 draft. The Cubs will start final draft preparations in two weeks.
Bullpen machination: The need for 13 pitchers has taken precedence over an extra position player in the wake of six extra-inning games and losing Rosscup.
"We always talk about it," Hoyer said of the possibility of adding a position player over an extra reliever. "It's an ongoing discussion about the best way to play that.
"The challenge we have right now is that we have a very young bullpen," Hoyer said. "Carrying 13 pitchers allows us to try to stay away from these guys on back-to-back nights and treat them as well as we can."
It's challenging for us to try to balance and have a young bullpen."
Jake Arrieta's two four-inning starts, combined with 10-inning and 12-inning games during a six-game stretch, have taxed the bullpen, and pitcher Travis Wood has been used twice during that span as a pinch hitter.
Rosscup returned to Chicago for a further examination to determine the extent of his soreness after he experienced difficulty warming up.
Meanwhile, Hoyer says the inconsistency of reliever Justin Grimm isn't too discouraging. Grimm has walked 12 and hit a batter to force in the winning run in a 12-inning loss Tuesday.
"He's working harder in the pen now than he ever has," Hoyer said. "Part of that role is pitching tired sometimes and knowing he has to throw strikes. He'll be fine."
Coming on: Hoyer has been encouraged with the recent development of Cuban left-hander Gerardo Concepcion, who struggled after signing a five-year, $6 million contract before the 2012 season and was sidelined for most of 2013 because of back issues.
Concepcion, 22, has a 3.20 ERA with 20 strikeouts in 192/3 innings at Class A Kane County.
"He was a guy who a lot of our scouts thought really highly of out of Cuba and dealt with some back injuries and issues that slowed him up," Hoyer said. "He's throwing well and hopefully he can keep that going.
"It's a hard transition (coming from Cuba). Some guys make it seamlessly. With some guys, it takes a long time, and some guys never make it. Hopefully Concepcion is starting to make that adjustment, and it's nice to see."
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