CHICAGO -- Last season, the Cubs ranked last in the National League with runners in scoring position, and this year, they're 14th. It's an area manager Rick Renteria is working on improving.
"Everybody tries to heighten their ability to do something, and it's actually counterproductive," Renteria said Saturday. "The anxiousness and the stress that comes with trying to be the guy in that particular moment takes you away from opportunities you might otherwise have.
"If you look across the board with numbers, two-out hitting across the league with runners in scoring position is not very high. Most of it is just anxiousness, and it's trying to get these guys to take those experiences that they're having and try to tone it down, slow themselves down and continue to improve on what they need to get better."
The Cubs were batting .201 with runners in scoring position entering Saturday, and .183 with RISP with two outs. The Giants lead the league in the latter category, batting .282. Last year, the Cardinals led the Majors with a .305 batting average with RISP with two outs, and the Dodgers were second at .247. The Cubs ranked 12th at .209.
The only way to eliminate the anxiety, Renteria said, is more experience in those situations.
"I think, more than anything, when guys are put in positions, it's about focusing on simply seeing the baseball in the hitting area," Renteria said. "There are a lot of thoughts and things that go through hitters' minds: 'I want to drive this guy in, I want to hit a ground ball.' You've got to eliminate all those things and simplify it and stay in the zone."
Emilio Bonifacio leads the Cubs with a .308 average with RISP, followed by Anthony Rizzo at .258 and Welington Castillo at .250.
Renteria knows players can be anxious.
"It's just a matter of being able to manage that high energy," Renteria said.
Veras may transition back into closer's role
CHICAGO -- Cubs manager Rick Renteria didn't waste any time using Jose Veras in the ninth inning. The right-hander could regain his job as the team's closer.
Veras was sidelined with a strained left oblique and activated from the disabled list Wednesday. He made his first appearance on Thursday against the Cardinals, and he entered in the sixth with a runner at first and one out. Veras got Allen Craig to hit into a double play.
On Friday, Veras entered in the ninth with the Cubs trailing the Brewers, 4-3. He struck out two of the four batters he faced, but Chicago wasn't able to rally for the win.
"Those are situations he's pitched in before; it's not foreign to him," Renteria said of late-inning work. "We want him to continue to build as much confidence as he possibly can and [Friday] was an opportunity that we had for him, and we used him."
Veras was the closer at the start of the season, but he lost that job after blowing a two-run lead April 11 against St. Louis. Could Veras be the closer again?
"In the end, as it evolves and how he continues to perform will dictate how we move forward," Renteria said.
Ruggiano, Sweeney rehab injuries in Mesa
CHICAGO -- Cubs outfielder Justin Ruggiano, sidelined with a strained left hamstring, was expected to begin a Minor League rehab assignment on Monday with Triple-A Iowa.
Ruggiano's last game was April 23 when he hit his first home run of the season, but he had to come out of the game after feeling his hamstring "pop" while chasing a fly ball near the visitors' dugout at Wrigley Field. He was batting .229 in 14 games.
Ryan Sweeney, who was placed on the disabled list May 3 with a strained right hamstring, took a "step back" in his rehab, Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. Sweeney was injured chasing a fly ball against the Cardinals on May 2.
Both Sweeney and Ruggiano have been rehabbing at the Cubs' complex in Mesa, Ariz. Renteria did not believe Sweeney had re-aggravated his leg seriously.
"He just probably felt it a little lightly," Renteria said. "He's been doing great."
There is no timetable for the outfielders' return.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.