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STL@CHC: Arrieta fans seven in first start of 2014

Rick Renteria spent six seasons on the Padres' Major League coaching staff, most recently as the bench coach. On Thursday, he'll be back at Petco Park for the first time ever as the visiting manager.

Renteria, 52, leads the Cubs into a four-game series against the Friars. He first joined the San Diego organization as a coach in 2003 with Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore, and managed in the team's farm system from 2004-07.

Although he still has strong ties to members of the Padres' current staff -- including manager Bud Black, who communicates regularly via text messages -- Renteria downplayed his homecoming.

"For me, it's another road trip," the Cubs manager said. "I have some really good friends there who I'll be happy to see for a quick moment to say hello, and then it's on -- it's Cubs against the Padres."

Renteria will not take advantage of the West Coast swing to sleep in his own bed in his home in Temecula, Calif., but will stay with the team at its downtown hotel.

"I'll have plenty of time [in the offseason] to go back to the neighborhood," he said.

However, expect lots of family and friends at Petco to see the popular Renteria.

"It was a great working staff and we developed some tremendous relationships," he said. "All those things and those experiences that I had there led to the opportunities that I'm experiencing now. That's a different time."

"It will be great to see him," San Diego first baseman Yonder Alonso said. "He's an unbelievable guy. He helped me in the two years I was with him. He is a tremendously upbeat guy, really positive. He puts a smile on your face. He makes sure you get your work in, and he's a very truthful guy. He lets you know his feelings. He's a guy who deserves every chance possible."

Nick Hundley said he wished nothing but the best for Renteria, although probably not for the next four days.

"He's a guy who is a quality person," Hundley said. "You see him on TV and you root for him like crazy. He's genuine. His concern and love for people was really evident in here. He would say what needed to be said. If a guy needed to be called out, he wasn't afraid to deal with it."

The Cubs head west having won three of their last four games. They lost a heartbreaker to the Yankees on Wednesday in 13 innings.

"We've been playing good baseball from the beginning," Chicago pitcher Jason Hammel said. "We just haven't been able to pull out the one-run games. That's the bottom line. The win-loss record can be a little deceiving sometimes."

Cubs: Arrieta needs to go deep
Jake Arrieta will make his fourth start of the season. He was slowed this spring because of tightness in his right shoulder. He's thrown 82, 81 and 82 pitches in his three starts. The Cubs don't want any setbacks.

"We're still very mindful of him coming off his rehab," Renteria said. "We're still very mindful of how many pitches and how efficient he is. It's one of those things where we didn't want him to get in too much trouble and have to work through and drive his pitch count too high, so he had an early exit."

In his last outing against the Cardinals on May 13, Arrieta had trouble throwing strikes. He walked five and served up four hits over four innings.

"I wasn't efficient enough and that's what led to the high pitch count and early exit," Arrieta said. "I feel bad for having the bullpen come into the game too early there. There's no reason they need to be in the game before the sixth or seventh at least. That's what I'm harping on the most.

"Regardless of where my pitch count is right now, whatever it's at is good enough to get me into the sixth. I didn't do well enough at that tonight. I gave some good hitters too many free passes, and with my stuff, I need to be more efficient, that's the main thing."

The Cubs will need him to go deeper after playing 13 innings against the Yankees on Wednesday.

Padres: Smith a bright spot for reeling offense
While outfield sensation Seth Smith is batting .489 with eight doubles, three triples and three homers during his very merry month of May, the rest of the Padres are fighting to keep from drowning.

They were shut out for the eighth time in 46 games Wednesday, dropping the quick two-game series finale to the Twins 2-0. And they rank last or near the bottom of the majors in too many offensive categories to count.

"I think we're on the verge" of busting out of it, third baseman Chase Headley said after the Twins took the two games in San Diego. "Obviously, this has been a tough couple of games. But it's not like we were there [offensively] and now we're not there. It's a process."

Acknowledging that "everything is magnified" when you're in the moment, Headley still said this is as bad an offensive spell as he can remember since he first came up in 2007.

"I've been here for some offensive struggles," Headley said. "It certainly feels like this one is as tough as we've experienced."

Worth noting
• Chicago outfielder Junior Lake has hit safely in seven of his last eight games, going 12-for-33 (.364) with two home runs and eight RBIs in that stretch.

• Anthony Rizzo drew three walks Wednesday, moving him into a tie with the Pirates' Andrew McCutchen for the NL lead with 35.

• The Cubs' pitching staff finished a five-game homestand with a 1.47 ERA, giving up eight earned runs over 49 innings. They served up one home run in that stretch.

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