Phillips’ 6 RBIs help drop Cubs back in last place
BY GORDON WITTENMYER email@example.com June 10, 2013 10:28PM
Cincinnati Reds' Brandon Phillips celebrates his grand slam against the Chicago Cubs during the third inning of a baseball game Monday, June 10, 2013, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Jim Prisching)
Updated: June 10, 2013 11:08PM
Where’s the next Yasiel Puig when the Cubs need him?
Monday night he was in Daytona, Fla., in the form of the Cubs’ top prospect, Javy Baez – who tied a Florida State League record with four home runs and drove in seven runs.
Maybe tomorrow he’ll be in Class A Kane County’s outfield in the form of Albert Almora.
Where he won’t be anytime soon, says Cubs manager Dale Sveum, is Wrigley Field – where, by contrast, the Cubs lost a nearly fogged-out opener of a four-game series against the Cincinnati Reds, 6-2 on Monday night, to drop back into last place in the National League Central.
Reds second baseman Brandon Philips drove in all six runs for Cincinnati, including four on a third-inning grand slam into the dense fog off Cubs starter Scott Feldman. The Reds’ cleanup hitter jumped from fifth in the league to second with 52 runs batted in.
Meanwhile, as Los Angeles Dodgers phenom Puig was being crowned National League Player of the Week just seven games into his major-league career – after just 63 in the minors – the Cubs were left to fantasize about the day their version of Puig makes an impact like that.
Or an impact like Baez, the 2011 first-round draft pick, had Monday night for his advanced-A Daytona club.
“I heard about it,” Sveum said minutes after the loss to the Reds. “Obviously a pretty special night for anybody at any level to hit four home runs.
“That’s what you’re hoping for when it all gets developed and ready to get here, those kind of days and that kind of power that changes games around with one swing of the bat.”
In fact, Theo Epstein’s rebuilding program might depend on it, Sveum said.
“Oh, yeah, those are the guys we’re counting on in the organization that we need to come through when you do call them up,” Sveum said.
Guys like Baez and advanced-A teammate Jorge Soler and guys like last year’s first-round draft pick Almora and this year’s No. 2 overall pick Kris Bryant.
“Those are our best prospects – whether it’s Baez, Soler, the Almoras – whenever they’re ready to get here. We’re still talking about a couple years away.
“[But] those are the guys that you have to have hit. Otherwise, you’re back to the drawing board.”
Soler and Baez made big first impressions at big-league camp in spring training. And both earned Florida State League All-Star selection.
After his eye-popping night Monday, Baez is at .291 with 13 homers, 44 RBIs and a .908 OPS in 57 games for Daytona.
But don’t look for Baez, Soler or any of those other top prospects getting even a late callup in September this year, Sveum said.
“We’re not talking about next year or anytime this year,” he said. “That’s not what we’re trying to do. They’re here to develop. … We’re still not getting the huge production at the level [they’re at]. They still have to develop before they get there.”
That part of the conversation came before he heard about Baez’s monster game.
“My mind hasn’t changed,” Sveum said.
With the future on indefinite hold, it’s going to be up to the Anthony Rizzos and Starlin Castros to make the big impacts.
Castro, the beleaguered All-Star shortstop, made things at least a little bit interesting for a few minutes in the ninth when he delivered a run-scoring double to the wall in left to put runners at second and third one out.
But wheels-challenged Dioner Navarro was thrown out easily at the plate going on contract when Darwin Barney followed with a grounder to third, and Ryan Sweeney lined out to first to end it.
“Whenever you get a hit like that, and it’s a double and does something like that – and he also hit a missile to second base [in the fourth] as well,” Sveum said. “Hopefully, that kind of day is something that turns things around.”
Castro struggled in his first at-bat – in part because of the thick fog that hung over Wrigley for about half the game -- fouling off the first pitch and checking his swing on the second to fall into a 0-2 count before eventually striking out.
“You could just see the ball at the last moment. Everybody said the same thing,” Castro said. “You could see only a little piece of white coming to home plate. It wasn’t easy.”
But the liner in the fourth, snared by a lunging Phillips “helped me a lot because I know I hit it hard,” he said.
“When those balls I hit hard start coming like hits, it can be [contagious], and I can get hot,” he said. “I want to stay positive. I know I can get out of this.”