The Cubs’ emphasis on looking to the future was reconfirmed Tuesday night when embattled reliever Jose Veras was designated for assignment.
But the next month will be a sign of how far they must climb to gain any respectability in the wake of their latest injury and persistent lack of offense.
That leaves left-handed hitting John Baker, who was making only his 14th start, and journeyman Eli Whiteside (promoted from Triple-A Iowa) as the primary catchers. The Mets stole two bases Tuesday, increasing the success rate of Cubs’ opponents to 89.7 percent this season.
The bigger issue, however, remains a lifeless offense. The Cubs, who were shut out three times in their final five games of their recently concluded 10-game trip, didn’t break through until late when Chris Coghlan homered in the eighth inning and Nate Schierholtz singled home Anthony Rizzo from second with two outs in the ninth Tuesday night as the Cubs rallied for a 2-1 victory over the Mets.
The Cubs, who had a .297 on-base percentage entering Tuesday’s game, had only four baserunners in the first seven innings and finished with just six hits. So it really didn’t matter that they possessed a .212 average with runners in scoring position, because opportunities have been rare recently.
“This is a little bit of a trend we’ve had the past couple of years,” general manager Jed Hoyer acknowledged before the game. “The on-base performance has been below average again, and really the situational hitting part has been a little bit of a head scratcher.”
A more glaring deficiency is an outfield that has produced only 10 home runs and 61 RBIs.
“Those guys are going to come around,” Hoyer said. “(Justin) Ruggiano has been hurt. Nate (Schierholtz) has shown some signs of coming around. Hopefully we’ll get (Ryan) Sweeney back very soon.”
The Cubs have 10 days to trade or release Veras, 33, who received handshakes and hugs from teammates but declined to talk to reporters. Veras will receive the balance of his $3.85 million salary as well as a $150,000 buyout for 2015.
“When it came down for us make the decision, ultimately we have a lot of young guys playing well and competing well in important leverage situations and wanted to stick with those guys for right now,” Hoyer said. “It’s never a fun thing to do, but we felt it was the right thing given how (Brian) Schlitter and (Neil) Ramirez (are pitching).”
Schlitter struck out Wilmer Flores to end the fifth and bail out starter Jake Arrieta, who threw 105 pitches in 42/3 innings.