CHICAGO -- The Cubs' offense scuffled in the first three games against the White Sox, totaling four hits in each of the games, all losses. In the series finale on Thursday, Ryan Kalish and Luis Valbuena were inserted at the top of the lineup to try to get things going.
"Those are obviously important pieces," manager Rick Renteria said of his Nos. 1-2 hitters. "The reality is we have to keep the line moving. One of the things we're trying to do is make sure guys don't put too much pressure on themselves. If one guy is not getting a pitch to hit, then let the next guy get it done."
The Cubs entered Thursday's game ranked 13th in batting average in the National League, and hitting just .195 with runners in scoring position. Renteria said he's hoping players don't try to do too much to turn things around.
"Right now, they've hit a little valley -- 'Don't panic,'" Renteria said of his message to the players. "Do what you can, grind out at-bats, and put a nice line together and see what we can do with that.'"
Some of the players are still developing, he said.
"The biggest thing I can bring to this picture, quite frankly, is patience," Renteria said. "They need to know that we know they have a skill set that will work. We believe that, we believe that there's a process in which they're adjusting and learning maybe new concepts or reaffirming concepts they've heard in the past.
"We're trying to see if we can see some consistency with all the work they're doing with [the hitting coaches]," he said. "The other thing is let them know we're confident in them and hopefully that confidence translates into them being comfortable and going out and playing the game the way they want to."
Renteria's patience paid off Thursday with a 12-5 victory, in which the Cubs banged out 15 hits, including a double, two triples and three home runs.
Renteria doesn't like getting tossed, moves on quickly
CHICAGO -- Cubs rookie manager Rick Renteria leads the Major Leagues in most ejections. It's not something he's proud of.
"I don't like being ejected," Renteria said Thursday, one day after being tossed for the third time this season. "[The umpires] do a great job. It's a very difficult job they do. It's not my intent to show up an umpire or try to make them feel uncomfortable.
"Last night happened, it's over, and today's a new day," he said.
Renteria was the first manager ejected this season when he was ousted April 8. All of his arguments have been about balls and strikes, which can not be challenged with the new expanded replay system.
"I think you have to stand up for your guys," Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said Thursday. "When your players are frustrated, there are times when you have to vocalize that. Obviously, there are fewer ejections now with instant replay, so those things kind of stand out more. I understood his frustration."
The 52-year-old skipper is on pace to set a club single-season record. The mark is seven, shared by managers Johnny Evers (1913) and Frankie Frisch (1950). Rookie manager Mike Quade was the most recent to challenge that when he was tossed six times in 2011. Jim Lefebvre also was ejected six times in the 1993 season.
Renteria said he doesn't hear from family after an argument. He complimented home-plate umpire Tom Woodring, who ejected him on Wednesday.
"I thought he was a little patient with me," Renteria said.
Cubs GM: Samardzija's pitch count a 'non-story'
CHICAGO -- Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said Thursday the subject of pitch counts regarding Jeff Samardzija, who threw a career-high 126 pitches Monday night, is a "non-story" and not worth discussing any more.
Samardzija threw that many pitches over nine innings against the White Sox at Wrigley Field. The Cubs right-hander did not get a decision in a 3-1, 12-inning loss. Cubs manager Rick Renteria and pitching coach Chris Bosio wanted to keep Samardzija in the game as long as possible in hopes of getting him his first victory in his seventh start.
"It's Thursday," Hoyer told reporters at U.S. Cellular Field. "We're talking about something that happened on Monday. You look at the comments that Rick made and I made, they're almost identical. To me, that's a non-story."
Renteria was asked before Thursday's game if he had talked to Hoyer about Samardzija, and said no.
"I talk to Rick every day about pitcher usage, bullpen usage, starter usage," Hoyer said. "Our conversation the day after that outing was really not that much different. I think all three of us said individually when asked about 126 pitches, he said, 'Am I going to do it every time out? No.'
"No one, Theo [Epstein, president of baseball operations] and me included, had a problem with [Samardzija] throwing 126 on Monday night," Hoyer said. "But I think all three of us have said individually that that's something that's not going to happen every time out.
"If you read all of our comments, I don't think any comment was really an outlier," Hoyer said. "It's just a story that should probably die."
Soler goes 2-for-2 in return to Double-A lineup
A day after being activated from the disabled list, outfielder Jorge Soler, the Cubs' No. 5 prospect, was back in the Double-A Tennessee lineup Thursday. His return helped Tennessee secure a 5-4 victory against Birmingham.
Soler, ranked No. 45 on MLB.com's Top 100 prospects, had been out since straining his right hamstring on Opening Day. He went 2-for-2 with a double and two walks Thursday.
Soler hit fourth in the Smokies lineup, one spot behind third baseman Kris Bryant, the Cubs' No. 2 prospect and No. 8 overall. Coming off his first career two-homer game Wednesday, he went 3-for-4 with a home run in the victory. In 33 games this season, he is hitting .328 and leads the Southern League with nine home runs.
Right-hander Pierce Johnson, the Cubs' No. 7 prospect and No. 93 overall, started the game for Tennessee. While he didn't factor in the decision, he did produce a quality start. Birmingham scored three runs on three hits in six innings against him. Johnson struck out eight batters and walked two.
• Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and Hoyer recently saw East Carolina pitcher Jeff Hoffman, projected to be a top five pick in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft. However, the right-hander's status will likely change. He is scheduled to undergo Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.
The Cubs officials saw Hoffman strike out 16 in a game. In 10 starts this season, Hoffman fanned 72 over 67 1/3 innings and compiled a 2.94 ERA.
The Cubs have the fourth pick in the June 5 Draft. The top pitchers include North Carolina State lefty Carlos Rodon and high school pitchers Brady Aiken and Tyler Kolek, whom former Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood saw recently.
• Cubs players were wearing new T-shirts, courtesy of pitcher Edwin Jackson, that feature a picture of Carlos Villanueva and his curly mustache on front and some of the pitcher's favorite sayings on back.
It's the second version of the T-shirt, which the players also wore last year. This season, Jackson had two colors done -- blue and a bright citron. Not all of the 10 sayings are printable, but they do include such Villanueva favorites as "I'm the glue" and "Whatever."
"Last year, it was a surprise," Jackson said about making the shirts. "You just want to keep it fun."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. Teddy Cahill is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @tedcahill. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.