Javy Baez brings fans to Wrigley in debut loss
BY DAVID JUST For Sun-Times Media August 8, 2014 10:05PM
Updated: August 8, 2014 11:45PM
The series opener Friday against the Rays will go down as a 4-3 loss in 10 innings for the Cubs, who fell 16 games below .500.
Of far greater importance, though, was the introduction of blue-chipper Javy Baez to a home crowd of 34,937, the latest — and, for now, the biggest — milestone in the club’s rebuilding process.
Baez, 21, seemed anxious in his home debut. He struck out swinging four times and hacked at pitches out of the strike zone.
“I wasn’t nervous,” Baez said. “I was just not being patient at the plate and swinging at bad pitches.”
Still, there was at least one glimpse of the future the Cubs are hoping to create.
Baez came to the plate in the first inning to a strong ovation and cracked a single to left field.
Anthony Rizzo followed with a double to right, and Starlin Castro singled in the game’s first run.
Three consecutive hits by a trio of youngsters was exactly what frustrated Cubs fans wanted to see.
Baez also flashed some defensive skill in the second inning. He charged toward a slow grounder from Logan Forsythe, scooped it up with his bare hand and flipped the ball to first for the last out of the inning.
“We’ve been able to hear about talented, gifted players in Chicago,” manager Rick Renteria said. “Now they’re finally starting to get here and show you some of the things and skills that they bring to the table. Slowly but surely, people will start to embrace it and start to believe.”
Leadoff hitter Chris Coghlan sensed the changes surrounding the club before a pitch was thrown.
“There is energy, for sure,” Coghlan said. “Anytime you call up a young guy, it brings energy. Everybody wants to meet him, talk about him. He’s fresh; he hasn’t been seeing all the losses. He’s just excited to be here and is trying to put his stamp on the league.”
The rest of the game had all the hallmarks of a team enduring growing pains.
Starting pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada threw well enough to earn a win. He went six-plus innings, gave up two earned runs, struck out six and walked one.
The bullpen, though, allowed go-ahead runs in the eighth and 10th innings.
Baez, Rizzo and Castro went 0-for-11 after their first-inning breakout.
The Rays got consecutive singles from Desmond Jennings, Ben Zobrist and Kevin Kiermaier in the 10th to take the lead for good.
Baez came up with a man on second and no outs in the eighth inning and didn’t make contact to advance the runner, an opportunity Baez knew he missed.
“I was just trying to make contact and see what happens,” Baez said.
Renteria was confident it was a moment Baez will learn from.
“He knows the situation,” Renteria said. “And I’ll be honest with you, I don’t want to take the bat out of his hands, either, and limit what he can do. I want him to have an approach that allows him to be able to take advantage of that skill he has.”