Carlos Villanueva has been the Cubs' go-along, get-along guy since they signed him to a two-year contract before the 2013 season.
He has started and relieved, sometimes all within the space of days. Villanueva was named the Cubs' fifth starting pitcher at the end of spring training, but before he could make his first start, in Sunday's 8-3 victory over the Phillies, he came out of the bullpen twice in Pittsburgh.
He lost both decisions, but manager Rick Renteria told him not to worry about it. Villanueva got his reward Sunday with a victory, as he went 5 innings and gave up 6 hits and 1 run.
He said the talk from the boss wasn't necessary.
"It shouldn't take him telling me that," Villanueva said. "It's not easy, and I wasn't happy when that (the losses) happened, but I feel like I've grown a lot in my years. If you were to tell me that would have happened to me five or six years ago, I don't know how I would have handled it -- a lot differently than I did. But you take a positive out of it."
Villanueva did want to stay in Sunday's game after 5, but Renteria made sure to hug him and talk to him in the dugout.
"He worked his magic on me," Villanueva said. "I didn't want to come out of the game, obviously, at that point. My goal when I start is to go as deep as I can in the game. As a competitor, just let me go back out there, and you can have somebody ready behind me. That's why he's the manager. It worked."
Renteria had nothing but good things to say about his pitcher, who worked out of bases-loaded trouble in the fourth after an error by shortstop Starlin Castro.
"Villanueva, how about that guy?" he said. "We used him twice in Pittsburgh, and he comes back and gets us out of a jam. He had actually gotten a groundball, and it wasn't quite cleanly fielded. He kept pitching. Quite frankly, I was as impressed about how he did that as anything."
Growing pains for Baez:
Shortstop prospect Javier Baez was ejected from Class AAA Iowa's game Saturday after arguing a checked-swing call. The 21-year-old Baez got off to a rough start, going 0-for-9 with 6 strikeouts.
Cubs manager Rick Renteria saw Baez and all the Cubs' top prospects in spring training.
"They're all young," he said. "They're all trying to get through their growing pains. It's part of the process. I think he'll overcome it. He'll get better and learn from it and keep moving forward."
Baez had a pinch homer in Iowa's 4-3 victory Sunday over Memphis.
This and that:
Emilio Bonifacio was 1-for-4 with 2 runs. His 14 hits for the season led the major leagues entering Sunday's late action ... Left fielder Ryan Kalish hit the Cubs' first triple of the season. It was Kalish's second career triple and his first since Sept. 15, 2010 while he was with Boston. ... Wrigley Field had its first replay challenge when Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg challenged a Chase Utley groundout in the fifth. The out was confirmed.