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Javy Baez hits winning HR in debut – Cubs 6-5 over Rockies

Updated: September 7, 2014 6:44AM



DENVER — Even after saying Sunday that Javy Baez should be promoted to the majors ‘‘soon,’’ shortstop Starlin Castro was as surprised as anyone else that the Cubs did it Monday.

‘‘I said, ‘Wow, I said something and he comes up right away,’ ’’ Castro said.

So who does Castro-damus say is coming next?

‘‘Soler?’’ he said with a smile, referring to touted outfield prospect Jorge Soler. ‘‘We have to bring him, too. And [Kris] Bryant.

‘‘I think you bring those guys right now, and next year we’ll have a really good young team and we can prove it. We’ve got players that can play at this level. . . . And when those guys are ready, I think we’ll be a team that can compete with any team.’’

This was the power of Javy Baez in the clubhouse Tuesday — a power of hope that seemed as big as the power he generated with a first-pitch, 414-foot, opposite-field homer in the 12th that beat the Colorado Rockies 6-5 in his big-league debut.

It’s the power of suggestion of what’s to come.

‘‘It should make people in the minors hungrier, and even us hungrier to get these guys up here,’’ first baseman Anthony Rizzo said of Baez’s promotion, which might be even more heralded than Rizzo’s two years ago. ‘‘With Javy, he could spark us. That’s a lot of home runs he could provide if he gets in a groove.’’

Realistically, the Cubs don’t expect much more of Baseball America’s seventh-ranked prospect than the kind of ups and downs they saw throughout his 1-for-6, three-strikeout debut Tuesday.

‘‘If Javy follows the normal track record for very talented 21-year-old big-leaguers, he’s going to struggle in certain elements of his game,’’ team president Theo Epstein said. ‘‘And that should be expected. That should be part of the learning process and part of his development, which continues in the big leagues. That said, I don’t think Javy is someone who needs to be handled with kid gloves. Javy in some ways is baseball mature beyond his years and is not someone we have to be delicate with.’’

Baez, who has tended to struggle early at each new level, will be in the lineup daily, at second base, for the final two months of the season, the Cubs say, and will be more prepared to succeed from the start next April.

Baez said he didn’t know what to expect facing big-league pitchers every day.

‘‘I’ll just try to [do] as much as I can,’’ he said, acknowledging he plans to swing hard. ‘‘Oh, yeah. I always swing big — swing hard.’’

He was caught off guard, he said, by Monday’s early wakeup call from Iowa manager Marty Pevey to tell him of the promotion.

‘‘I was like, ‘Are you serious?’ ’’ he said. ‘‘Then I realized I was really going to the big leagues, so I got really excited, called my mom, told my brother, and everybody started jumping around and crying.’’

Sort of like some of his new Cubs teammates.

‘‘Very exciting,’’ Rizzo said. ‘‘It’s a good step, for everyone here, for the entire organization.’’

Epstein put the brakes on suggestions that any kind of top-talent pipeline is suddenly about to gush.

‘‘We’re not here to make pronouncements or sort of look at deeper meaning,’’ Epstein said. ‘‘But I’d be blind if I didn’t recognize that there are a lot of nice things going on in this organization and that there are a lot of reasons for optimism. And there is light at the end of the tunnel. We have a lot of talent moving through our system and getting up to the big-league level. That provides us opportunities in the near future and the distant future to make it count and to win.

‘‘So we’re excited about that even as we recognize there is an extraordinary amount of work left to be done.’’

Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com

Twitter: @GDubCub



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