Despite the common perception, the Cubs lost a big part of its everyday lineup Wednesday when Jorge Soler was placed on the disabled list. Joe Maddon does not think Soler will be out much longer than two to three weeks. Soler is dealing with a left ankle sprain and while the timeframe Maddon gave was better than one initially reported by the Sun-Times, three weeks is a lot of time for a team that was struggling to find consistent offense with him in the lineup.
Multiple reports indicated the Cubs were having discussions about calling up Javier Baez for the upcoming Interleague games in Detroit (June 9-10), Cleveland (June 17-18) and Minneapolis (June 19-21) before Soler went on the DL. Baez has really performed well at the plate for Triple-A Iowa, especially over the last two weeks. But the Cubs appeared to shift gears with Baez and speed up his timeframe to get experience at third base with Iowa shortly after Soler had an MRI on his left ankle.
A report from Ashley Marshall late Tuesday indicated Baez had been taking grounders at third base and could see time there in the coming weeks. By Wednesday afternoon, a report from the Des Moines Register stated Baez would be making his first start at third base.
Javier Baez batted third and played third base in Wednesday’s loss in Albuquerque. Baez went 1-for-3 at the plate with a walk, a strikeout and a run scored. After 33 games, Baez is batting .325/.404/.545 with six doubles, seven home runs, 11 walks and 34 strikeouts for a .949 OPS.
Baez handled six chances at third base and started a 5-4-3 double play in the eighth. Baez was not charged with any errors in his first game action at third base since the Arizona Fall League in 2012.
Kris Bryant was told about Baez playing third base and he said he was willing to play any position and do whatever it takes to help the Cubs win games. Bryant has started games in left and center field already this season and played right field in college.
According to the Sun-Times, the Cubs have discussed multiple scenarios to get Baez playing time at the big league level.
Joe Maddon downplayed Baez lining up at third base. Maddon said the Cubs “just want to give him an opportunity to learn the position a little bit” in order to give the team options. And Bryant indicated that Baez would be moved around the field once he is recalled.
Javier Baez did not make the best impression on the media and fan base last season when he was called up in August. Baez made very little contact and did not appear willing to change his approach at the plate. And it did not help matters this spring when his bad habits continued. By all accounts and available video, Baez has made several adjustments while not losing any of the bat speed that he is very proud of.
Marty Pevey talked with Ashley Marshall about what he saw from Baez during Tuesday’s two-homer performance.
“He was quiet at the plate, he had quiet feet and good hitters have quiet feet. His swing was short and compact and he hit a home run to center field. Then just absolutely torched one to left-center that went 460, 470 feet. It was a show to behold. Both home runs were on fastballs. The first one, I knew it had a chance. It’s 417 out there [to center field] and it goes uphill and [Drew Stubbs] just ran out of room. [The second homer] he got rid of his leg kick because the guy was quick to the plate and he had to get his foot down in a hurry. He doesn’t do it all the time. Unfortunately, that’s something he needs to do more of to get that foot down to keep up to the fastball. We looked at the video right after the game was over, and it was amazing he can generate that much power without picking up the leg. He just picked his foot up and put it down.”
Javier Baez might not be the only addition to the big league roster. The front office has been exploring ways to improve the team, especially the bench. Carrying 13 pitchers and three catchers for a majority of the season have not allowed Maddon to give his everyday players breaks in order to keep them fresh throughout the season.
Arismendy Alcantara is producing results at the plate (.283/.350/.522 with four doubles, five triples, eight home runs and a .872 OPS) and has seen time at second, third, shortstop, left field and center field with Iowa this season. The switch-hitting Alcantara could help solve some playing time issues and give Maddon defensive options.
With the Cubs struggling in several areas right now, it only appears to be a matter of time before Javier Baez is back up. It will be interesting to see how much the front office shakes up the roster in the coming days.
- Full Report from Comcast SportsNet
- Full Report from the Sun-Times
- Full Report from ESPN Chicago
- Full Report from MiLB.com