Home-run binge not enough to keep Javy Baez in the bigs
BY GORDON WITTENMYER firstname.lastname@example.org March 16, 2013 9:32PM
Hot-hitting shortstop Javy Baez ripped two home runs against the Royals on Saturday. Baez, 20, has four homers in his last five at-bats. | Chris Carlson~AP
Updated: April 18, 2013 7:16AM
LAS VEGAS — The legend of Javy Baez quickly has risen to even greater, rarefied heights in just the last few days.
Just in time for the Cubs’ top hitting prospect to be cut from big-league camp Monday.
Baez, 20, who leads the Cubs with six home runs, has four in his last five at-bats — in his last seven pitches, in fact. He hit two Saturday against the Royals, along with a drive to the wall for an out.
But manager Dale Sveum said Baez, outfield prospect Jorge Soler and several other young, raw players slated for the minors still will get sent out Monday as the Cubs trim the big-league camp roster for the final 10 days of spring training.
“That’s not my decision, so I will do whatever they want me to,” Baez said. “My goal was to show them I can play the game hard and come to play every day.”
Sveum has been impressed with the kid shortstop.
“What stood out was how it seemed like he just turned into a different kid this last week, the way he went about things, and his at-bats,” Sveum said, chuckling about Baez telling on-deck batter Welington Castillo in the ninth inning Friday against World Baseball Classic semifinalist Japan that he was going to end the game with one swing.
“That inner cockiness is always going to be something that’s a huge asset for any good player,’’ Sveum said. “People that play in the big leagues, there’s always an edge to them one way or the other. He’s got that edge. He wants to be that guy.’’
Baez likely will open the season at advanced Class A Daytona.
“What he is showing in spring training, he shows he is pretty close,” Alfonso Soriano said.
First baseman Anthony Rizzo, who returned Saturday from Italy’s run in the WBC, said it was “bittersweet” to be back after the team was eliminated Wednesday. But he values the experience as he prepares for the Cubs’ season.
“Every single pitch, every inning, and later on the at-bats mean even more,” he said of the intensity. “It is something I wouldn’t be able to get here, or even in the regular season. If you lose a game, you still play tomorrow, where this was like a playoff atmosphere where if you lose you’re done.”
The Cubs say a major difference from last spring to this one is a lack of gaping roster holes that might need plugging with other teams’ late-spring castoffs. “For what’s out there, position-player-wise, we’re OK,” Sveum said when asked if he saw an area of need. “I don’t know if anything else is going to come along better than what we have. Last year we had no [bullpen] depth. So it was almost a necessity to pick up a [Shawn] Camp.”
◆ An MRI exam on outfielder Brett Jackson’s sore shoulder revealed nothing worse than inflammation, and he’s expected to be sidelined about a week.
◆ Right-hander Matt Garza “did great” in his latest session of catch Friday, Sveum said. But the manager tempered Garza’s recent optimism, stressing the deliberate nature of the comeback process. “April would be very, very slim [chance],” Sveum said.
Contributing: Jason Skoda
CUBS (ss) 5, RANGERS 1
CUBS 8, ROYALS 3
DEALING ACE: Opening Day starter Jeff Samardzija was efficient enough in five scoreless innings against the Rangers that he finished an 85-pitch day by throwing his last 15 in the bullpen. He called the three-hit, one-walk outing his best of the spring, and he expects to throw about 90 pitches his next time out. He’ll have a tapered-down tuneup after that before the April 1 opener.
HOT AND JAVY: When Javy Baez hit a first-pitch homer against the Royals, it gave him home runs on three consecutive pitches, including a walk-off shot Friday against Japan’s World Baseball Classic semifinalist. The No. 9 pick in the 2011 draft leads the team with five homers. He likely will open the season at advanced Class A Daytona. Baez will be sent to minor-league camp with several other prospects Monday, when the Cubs make a sizeable roster trim for the final 10 days of camp.
TRIPLE HOMER THREAT: Baez’s first homer Saturday was the third by the Cubs among the first six batters against Royals starter Bruce Chen. David DeJesus homered to lead off the game, and Alfonso Soriano hit one with one out and a runner on.
RIZZO RETURN: First baseman Anthony Rizzo struck out twice in a sleep-deprived, 0-for-3 performance in his first game since returning from Team Italy’s surprising run in the WBC.
ON DECK: Split squad — Cubs at Athletics, Phoenix, 3:05 p.m., Ch. 9, Scott Baker vs. Tommy Millone; Cubs vs. Rangers, Las Vegas, 3:05 p.m., 720-AM.