Javy Baez launches another tape-measure shot in Cubs’ win
BY GORDON WITTENMYER Staff Reporter August 13, 2014 10:33PM
Updated: August 14, 2014 12:19AM
If anybody wants to nitpick, Javy Baez still hasn’t drawn a walk in nine major-league games.
He hasn’t stolen a base, hit a triple or figured out this global-warming problem yet, either — though he did threaten to punch another hole in the ozone layer Wednesday night with a third-inning home run.
When that shot off Milwaukee Brewers starter Kyle Lohse cleared the left-field bleachers and continued onto Waveland Avenue, it was another long-distance call to the Cubs’ future — if not another ad for ticket sales the rest of the season.
“There’s definitely excitement and reason to be excited,” said first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who hit the next pitch for another homer. “But I’m not going to get caught up in all that.”
Four innings later, it looked as if Baez nearly pulled every muscle in his body on swings and misses against Marco Estrada before popping up the third pitch to first base during a 2-for-4 performance in the Cubs’ 4-2 victory over the Brewers.
“We come here to play hard every day and learn something every day,” Baez, 21, said.
“It’s probably as expected,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said of Baez’s first week and a half in the majors. “There’s been some high-highs and been some lows. We’ll probably settle somewhere in the middle at some point.
“But this is why he’s here, so he can play every day and he can have those experiences. And the way he is as a player, he’ll learn from those things.”
The Cubs are counting on it. And on Jorge Soler learning a few things when he joins the club, likely in September. And Kris Bryant next year. And so on.
“We just want to keep getting more every-day guys,” Rizzo said. “There’s three or four now. We just need to get five or six, and pretty soon we’re going to have a really, really scary lineup.”
For now, Baez is the first real taste of The Plan for Cubs fans. Not just the flavor of the month — like Junior Lake a year ago. And not just the super-utility appetizer Arismendy Alcantara might prove to be.
The guy with 40-50-homer, 175-strikeout potential and a Gary Sheffield-like swing.
The guy who showed Wednesday night he’s worth watching every time he comes to the plate — even if the team’s results and place in the standings aren’t.
“You can already see the talent,” Hoyer said. “You see the things he does well. He’ll just keep learning.”
Just look at the weekend. After hitting three homers in his first three big-league games last week in Colorado, Baez struck out four times in Friday’s Wrigley Field debut and three more times Saturday against the Tampa Bay Rays.
By Sunday, the kid who might love swinging the bat more than anybody in a Cubs uniform this side of Starlin Castro stood at the plate for a six-pitch at-bat in which he didn’t swing once.
“He’s trying to find his happy medium,” manager Rick Renteria said. “That’s all part of the game.”
If nothing else, it shows that the wheels are turning inside the powerful infielder almost as quickly as the spin of his swing on the outside.
Nine games is no guarantee of any kind of success. But after an opposite-field single in the first and the mammoth homer in the third, Baez already has three multihit games, four home runs, seven RBI and an .878 OPS.
He even had two full counts Wednesday, on the brink of that elusive first walk.
“It should be a good 45 days or so for him,” Hoyer said.