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Javy Baez making impression despite likely ticket to Iowa

Updated: April 22, 2014 6:43AM



MESA, Ariz. — Javy Baez thinks he might have hit a ball farther once, a few years ago in the Arizona Fall League.

But Cubs manager Rick Renteria couldn’t remember the last time he saw anyone launch one deeper than Baez’s 452-foot blast Wednesday night against the Rockies.

“It’s been awhile,” Renteria said Thursday before the Cubs’ 3-0 loss to the Mariners in front of a Cactus League-record 15,243 fans.

“That was well-struck.”

And that was an understatement.

“It feels great,” said Baez, Baseball America’s No. 5 prospect.

“You don’t feel the ball on the bat. That’s when you hit it good.”

Baez, 21, is hitting .308 with five home runs this spring, but the Cubs likely will stick to their plan of starting his season in Class AAA Iowa.

“I think you just keep perspective and understand where he’s at in his development,” Renteria said. “You still see and understand that there are things he’s got to work on.

“So you keep that in mind. And kinda let things take care of themselves.”

Baez is doing extremely well and showing some adjustments, Renteria said. The Cubs, however, will be prudent when whittling the roster.

“We’re looking to make sure that the person that we take, whomever it is, is not coming back [to the minors],” Renteria said.

Jeff Samardzija — who allowed two runs, six hits and two walks in 51/3 innings, striking out eight in his last major tuneup before the season opener — likes what he sees.

“He’s a heck of a player, and that’s what you need,” said Samardzija, who made a small mechanical tweak to keep his front side from flying open.

“We don’t just need one Baez; we need six, seven more of them. And that’s what it’s all about.

“But one’s a start. We expect big things out of him.”

Renteria walked the line Thursday between praising prospects and wanting to focus on players who will make the 25-man roster.

“Quite frankly, my biggest concern are the guys that are here,” Renteria said. “I understand that all the youngsters are developing and moving along, which is great, but they’ll be here when they get here.

“As a manager, I have a team of guys that have been here, and I’ve gotta make sure that they understand that I’m pulling for them.”

At Iowa, Baez will play mostly at shortstop — he’ll start at short Friday against the White Sox — and make some appearances at second and third base.

He bumped his left wrist and right knee in a collision Wednesday while chasing a fly ball but stayed in the game. Baez declared himself fine Thursday.

“I don’t like coming out of games,” he said.

Soon enough — though not soon enough for Cubs fans — those games will be at Wrigley Field.

His family members, though, keep asking him when. So do his friends on Facebook.

“I don’t know what I should answer or what I can answer,” he said. “I know I will figure it out and let them know as soon as I know.”

Email: pfinley@suntimes.com

Twitter: @patrickfinley



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