Javier Baez’s thumb injury has created issues for the Cubs as the team prepares for the start of the season.
Instead of returning to the field for Monday’s against the Angels, Javier Baez received treatment on his left thumb and was relegated to playing catch at the team’s facility. Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Joe Maddon were reportedly on hand to watch Baez play catch in order to gauge where he stands with the jammed left thumb that has kept him out of the lineup since March 20.
Baez is an important piece to the Cubs puzzle. Maddon views him as the primary defensive back-up at all four infield positions. Baez made strides in center field to the point that Maddon penciled him in as the Cubs’ fifth outfielder. Baez was supposed to see time in left and right field before the end of camp. Maddon also values Baez’s ability on the bases and believed he could use him as a pinch-runner late in games and substitute as needed, without restrictions, defensively.
Basically, Baez’s versatility would allow the Cubs to carry 13 pitchers because he could fill the role of two bench players.
“We’re attempting to create an 11th hour to get this whole thing done. But getting more definition about Javy is more important right now.”
Maddon explained the Cubs are concerned “that he has not had enough at-bats, that he’s not played enough in the outfield.”
According to multiple reports, Baez’s status will have an impact on whether the Cubs begin the season with 12 or 13 pitchers.
The Cubs are exploring options to fill his roster spot which include Matt Szczur and Munenori Kawasaki. Szczur would give Maddon a fifth outfielder, pinch-runner and defensive replacement. And Kawasaki would be an extra infielder on the bench that could also be used as a pinch-runner.
Another option would be starting the season with Neil Ramirez on the active roster and Szczur on the bench. The Cubs could use Ben Zobrist at shortstop to back up Addison Russell. Tommy La Stella can play both second and third base. The team’s infield defense would take a hit without Baez or Kawasaki on the bench.
Maddon also said Monday that without a player like Baez a team has “to be more creative regarding how you’re going to shuffle maybe a late-inning defensive replacement, how you’re going to shuffle the pinch-running, who’s going to be available and who do you have for those roles.” Baez did all of those things for the Cubs according to Maddon.
The Sun-Times reported that Baez “made the team on merit at issue is whether he’ll start the season on the disabled list.”
If Baez is unable to prepare for the season the Cubs could backdate his DL stint to March 25 as long as he does not play in a Major League Spring Training game. Backdating the trip to the disabled list would allow him to be activated on April 9, the fifth game on the Cubs’ schedule.
Stay Tuned …
- Report from the Sun-Times
- Report from Comcast SportsNet
- Report from ESPN Chicago
- Report from Carrie Muskat