Draft pick Javier Baez gives Cubs hope
By GORDON WITTENMYER firstname.lastname@example.org June 6, 2011 10:12PM
Updated: July 15, 2011 12:28AM
CINCINNATI — He won’t be quite ready for the Philadelphia series this week when the Cubs could really use him, but Javier Baez could become the player to build a lineup around in a few years, the Cubs say.
The Cubs selected the Florida high school shortstop with the ninth overall pick in the draft Monday in hopes he can become a little more of what Josh Vitters was supposed to become —and a little sooner.
Vitters, the last prep hitter the Cubs drafted in the first round (third overall in 2007), is a third baseman still struggling to prove himself at AA Tennessee.
“We feel [Baez] is probably one of the two better hitters in this whole draft,’’ Cubs scouting director Tim Wilken said, “and I’m just very, very happy that we were able to acquire him.’’
Baez, a right-handed hitter who has played third, catcher and short, was rated as the best pure hitter among prep players in the draft by Baseball America, and the seventh-best overall position player.
Wilken said the Cubs feel Baez could hit his way into the lineup at several positions, including second base.
“We think we’ve got a chance for this young man somewhere down the road to be possibly a middle-of-the-order bat,’’ Wilken said. “We’re very excited.’’
The 50-round draft continues through Wednesday.
For all the trade speculation that swirled around Carlos Zambrano’s incendiary comments Sunday afternoon, the big right-hander holds the biggest hammer on that issue with his full no-trade clause.
“I don’t want to think about that,’’ he said when asked if this latest incident has changed his feelings on possibly waiving his rights. “I’m a Cubbie. And I want to be a Cubbie for the rest of my life. I’m just going to focus on this team, and I don’t want to focus on being traded or whatever.
“I’m just thinking about helping this team. It’s not over yet. Believe me, guys, it’s not over for the Cubs.’’
Despite being the target of Zambrano’s comments regarding a decision to throw Ryan Theriot a slider that didn’t slide on Sunday, closer Carlos Marmol said he wouldn’t switch to a fastball if he had it to do again.
“No,’’ he said. “I’d throw the same pitch again. It was a mistake [of execution].’’
◆ Marmol on whether his confidence has been shaken by the two blown saves and critical comments in the past week: “I don’t think so. I’ve been through this stuff so many times. When you’re the closer, you have to forget things.’’
◆ The Cubs optioned left-hander Scott Maine to AAA Iowa to clear space to activate Matt Garza from the disabled list on Monday.