ATLANTA -- Whether it's coincidence or not, there's something about Cubs outfielder Ryan Kalish batting near the top of the order. Entering Saturday, he was batting .321 (9-for-28) with four runs scored, all four of his RBIs and three of his five walks in the first and second spots.
"It's a fun challenge, for sure," Kalish said. "My job is to score runs."
Kalish hit second Saturday night, making three consecutive starts hitting either first or second in the order. During the past two games, he has reached base four times in 10 plate appearances, including a run-scoring single on Friday night.
In three Major League seasons, Kalish is batting .286 (20-for-70) when batting first or second, a mark much better than his .245 (80-for-326) career clip.
Cubs manager Rick Renteria plans to keep Kalish near the top of the order since he believes the outfielder has enjoyed better games and at-bats as a result. But in addition to results, Renteria also loves the passion Kalish brings.
"He's actually been pretty comfortable and pretty calm at the plate," Renteria said. "He's high-energy both out on the field and in the dugout. He's going 100 miles an hour, so it's nice.
"You can always tone somebody down, but it's kind of tough to speed people up. It's nice to have somebody like that because he's got some energy and we can tone him down when we need to."
Kalish is paired with speedster Emilio Bonifacio, who was batting .297 (38-for-128) with a .348 on-base percentage entering Saturday, at the top of the order, and Renteria likes what that one-two punch offers to lead off the lineup.
"I like the two hole because if [Bonifacio] gets on, I can try to move him along the bases, however that may be," Kalish said. "It's just a fun spot to be in, obviously."
Renteria added: "It just gives us a couple of guys who can run at the top and guys that can get on base."
If Kalish continues his success in the second spot, Renteria likes the possibilities that creates for Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro, who ranked first and third, respectively, among Cubs in RBIs of 18 and 16 entering Saturday.
"Rizzo and Starlin, I want to get them as many RBIs as I can," Kalish said. "My job is to get on base, make things happen and score runs."
Coghlan chipping in with key hits off bench
ATLANTA -- Down a run and needing a rally against Braves closer Craig Kimbrel, the Cubs turned to Chris Coghlan in the top of the ninth inning Friday night. Coghlan delivered, notching a leadoff single and eventually scoring the game's tying run.
"Any time you can come off the bench and get a hit, it's huge," Coghlan said. "It's not easy to do, especially when you're facing one of the best closers in the game."
The Cubs signed Coghlan to a Minor League deal in January after the Marlins non-tendered the outfielder in December. Manager Rick Renteria said situations like Friday's are what Chicago envisioned when it signed Coghlan.
Following Friday night's hit, Coghlan is batting .282 (11-for-39) as a pinch-hitter during his career.
"We were hoping he'd be able to come off the bench and give us some good at-bats, and he has, actually," Renteria said. "We've pinch-hit him three times prior to using him [Friday] night, and he squared up the ball well all three."
Coghlan is 3-for-12 since Chicago selected his contract from Triple-A Iowa after Ryan Sweeney went on the 15-day disabled list with a moderate right hamstring strain suffered May 3. Renteria has enjoyed Coghlan's veteran approach this week.
"He stands in there, he's got a good feel," Renteria said. "He has a good idea of what he's doing, so it's been nice to have him here."
Coghlan broke into the big leagues with the Marlins and was named the National League Rookie of the Year after batting .321 with a .390 on-base percentage in 2009. However, injuries have hampered Coghlan since.
He played only 70 games last season while battling issues with his back and right calf, and described his assignment to Iowa out of Spring Training as "humbling." Now healthy, he hopes to become a reliable bench option and remain in the Majors.
"Anytime you're healthy, it's always fun because you can just go compete off your skill set," Coghlan said. "I feel grateful to be here. I'm just grateful for an opportunity."
Club taking it slow with Veras' rehab stint
ATLANTA -- Cubs manager Rick Renteria is unsure how many appearances reliever Jose Veras (left oblique strain) will make before concluding his rehab assignment with Double-A Tennessee that began Tuesday.
"I couldn't tell you how many I need to have him feel comfortable with," Renteria said. "It's more of how comfortable he starts to feel and then all us coming together and seeing where we're at."
Veras has made two appearances with the Smokies, pitching an inning each Tuesday and Thursday. He struck out a batter in each outing, earned a victory Thursday and has yet to allow a baserunner.
Veras was placed on the 15-day disabled list April 26 retroactive to April 25. Veras and the Cubs are hopeful his time away may help him mentally after he lost the closer role due to a 15.88 ERA and two blown saves in his first six games.
"I don't want to be in a position where I can't help the team win ballgames," Veras said April 26. "I want to help the team win ballgames. That's why they brought me here. Even though I'm struggling, it's just the start of the season, five or six outings, and I'm used to throwing 70 outings every year. Hopefully, I can come back, and when I come back, I can start over and healthy 100 percent."
Joe Morgan is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.