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Tulowitzki to Javy Baez: Don’t panic if you start slowly

STUTTER-STEPS
TO GREATNESS

Examples of Hall of Famers, MVPs and multiyear All-Stars who looked like anything but at the start of their careers:

Ryne Sandberg, Phillies/Cubs

Debut: Sept. 2, 1981 (age 21).

Start: 1-for-6 in ’81, traded to Cubs and started ’82 16-for-86 (.189) into early May.

Then what: Finished at .271 in ’82 and by ’84 was MVP on Cubs’ first playoff team in 39 years.

Mike Trout, Angels

Debut: July 8, 2011 (19).

Start: .220, 5 HRs and more K’s (30) than hits (27) in last 12 weeks.

Then what: MVP runner-up next two seasons.

Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies

Debut: Aug. 30, 2006 (21).

Start: .240, 1 HR, .292 slugging in 96 ABs in ’06.

Then what: Hit .291 with 24 HRs for ’07 World Series team, 2nd in Rookie of Year, earned MVP votes.

Derek Jeter, Yankees

Debut: May 20, 1995 (21).

Start: Sent back to minors after two weeks, recalled September; .294 OBP, no HRs in ’95.

Then what: Rookie of the Year for 1996 World Series champs, Yanks’ all-time hits leader.

Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins

Debut: June 8, 2010 (20).

Start: With Baez-like max-swing, hit .209 first 22 games with twice as many K’s (36) as hits (18), just 2 HRs.

Then what: 20 more HRs rest of season and within two years had back-to-back 30-HR seasons and an All-Star selection.

Mickey Mantle, Yankees

Debut: April 17, 1951 (19).

Start: 11-for-first-51 (.216), three extra-base hits.

Then what: Finished rookie season .267, 13 HRs, an All-Star next 14 seasons.

Updated: August 17, 2014 10:02PM



DENVER — Nobody has to explain to Troy Tulowitzki why the Cubs hope to “temper expectations” on super prospect Javy Baez during a two-month debut that already has caused a massive spike in TV ratings and turned the Cubs into one of the top trending Twitter topics by Wednesday.

“It’s a process. It’s difficult,” said Tulowitzki, a slugging middle infielder who faced the same kind of hyped expectations as Baez when he broke into the majors in 2006. “You can be an MVP-type player and still go through struggles.

“It looks talent-wise like [Baez] has it. He’s going to get better as time goes on. I hope he has a lot of success early, but if he doesn’t, there’s no reason to panic.”

Tulowitzki knows better than most. A No. 7 overall draft pick and highly ranked prospect when he broke in, he struggled to hit .240 with only one homer in a monthlong debut in 2006, then had a breakout season to help the Rockies reach the World Series in 2007.

“The last thing you want to do as a young player is give him that job real early [in a season], and then he struggles and has nowhere to go from there,” the four-time All-Star said. “At least now if he does struggle, the season ends, and he has time to say, ‘OK, this was quite a season; I made it to the big-league level, and now I know what I need to do to stay there.’ ”

Baez already has run the gamut of highs and lows in two big-league games. On Tuesday night, he struck out three times — twice on swings at eye-level fastballs — but also delivered a 12th-inning homer for a win during a 1-for-6 debut.

Then Wednesday, he swung at first pitches his first two trips to the plate, for a pop-up with a man at third and none out and a fly to right. Despite seeing 11 pitches in his last two at-bats, he couldn’t avoid a 1-for-10 start to his career.

It’s why team president Theo Epstein said upon Baez’s promotion, “I like the timing. I like the fact that he’s got a nice, long chunk and will be playing just about every day and will have his eight weeks.

“And then, who knows? Maybe he’ll have immediate success, and he can take stock of that this winter. But more likely, if he follows the path of other very talented 21-year-olds in the big leagues, he’ll have some things to think about and be proud of himself for this year that he had, but also recognize this winter will be a nice time to make some adjustments and try to hit the ground running next year, as well.”

Baez has tended to struggle initially at each level of the minors before dominating.

Is he prepared for that now?

“Hopefully not,” he said. “Hopefully, I’ll figure it out pretty soon and start doing good.”

Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com

Twitter: @GDubCub



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