The Cubs believe in Javier Baez and know he has the talent to be successful in the majors. The 22-year old middle infielder has not been able to adjust to big league pitching and he continues to look lost at the plate this spring. Baez hasn’t been able to carry over the adjustments he’s making in batting practice to the games.
Joe Maddon inserted Baez at the top of his lineup Saturday hoping to change his mindset. Baez responded with a hit, a stolen base and a run scored in his first at bat off Felix Hernandez. Baez just missed an opposite field home run in the fourth inning. And he ended up striking out in two of his last three at bats on the afternoon. Baez will not lay off breaking pitches out of the strike zone that everyone watching knows the pitcher is about to throw.
Maddon talked about his decision to put Baez in the leadoff spot prior to the game. He explained he’s had success in the past batting players at the top of the order that aren’t necessarily leadoff hitters just to get them to think about something else. Maddon told Baez all he wanted him to do Saturday was to hit groundballs back up the middle of the field. Maddon knows Baez is going through a tough time right now.
Moving Baez to the top of the lineup came a day after Maddon told the Sun-Times that he saw the frustration in Baez’s face Thursday night. Baez struck out four times and walked in his five plate appearances. And Baez admitted he felt really good before Thursday’s game and “everything just went wrong.”
Starlin Castro told the media he’s talked to Baez about regaining his confidence. Castro agrees that Baez looks lost at the plate. He’s trying to get Baez to believe in himself again and not think too much.
Javier Baez talked about the adjustments he’s been working on during an interview on MLB Network Radio. And Baez admitted his timing is off right now, especially with his leg kick and hands.
“It’s getting better and working on other things, especially with my timing and my leg kick. It’s all getting on time. Every day we learn something and we watch video, so it’s going really good.”
“It’s a slow process. Whoever has a leg kick knows it’s very hard to get the timing down and whenever that’s not with the timing it’s hard to get it back,” Baez said. “With my leg kick, I’ve got my hands, my leg kick and my timing and right now is all messed up. My legs are moving different at a different time than my hands so that’s why I can’t get it right. But we watch some videos and we figure it out. We’re just trying to get it back.”
Starlin Castro thinks the possibility of Baez not making the team and being sent to the minors again this spring could be affecting him as well. Multiple reports have indicated that Baez took last spring’s demotion rather hard and that is what led to his bad start with the Iowa Cubs.
Joe Maddon said Thursday that Baez is not a lock to make the team. Maddon took the same stance he did in January at the convention when he said the entitlement program is over with the Cubs and players, regardless of their contract or draft status, have to produce to stay on the team.
When asked about the possibility of starting the season in the minors, Baez said he is “ready for whatever.” Baez pointed out he knows what he’s capable of and so does the team.
The focus this spring when it comes to Javier Baez has been on his offense. In 11 spring games, Baez is 4-for-34 with one home run, one walk and 13 strikeouts (.118/.143/.206). And while he’s been lost at the plate, Baez has not carried his frustrations to the field.
According to the Sun-Times, Baez’s defense “at second could be part of the final roster equation even if he’s still struggling.” Maddon said, “These are questions we have to weigh and then answer if we think he can fight through it and still maintain his confidence level and not retard his development. It’s a real fine line you walk with you players like that.”
The Cubs open the 2015 season in 14 days and Javier Baez is just one of the questions that has not been answered yet this spring.
- Full Report from Comcast SportsNet
- Full Report from Sun-Times (1)
- Full Report from Sun-Times (2)
- Full Report from ESPN Chicago (1)
- Full Report from ESPN Chicago (2)