Baez be­ing groomed for util­ity role, gets first start at first

Chicago Sun-Times - - SPORTS - GOR­DON WITTENMYER | AP Email: gwit­ten­myer@ sun­times. com Fol­low me on Twit­ter @ GDubCub.


MESA, Ariz.— An­other day, an­other po­si­tion for Javy Baez, who made his first pro­fes­sional start at first base Fri­day. He doesn’t even have his own first base­man’s mitt, but he said one’s on the way.

“I’m just try­ing to play,” said Baez, a short­stop by trade who started in cen­ter field Thurs­day in the spring opener.

Baez, who went 1- for- 2 with a stolen base and a run scored in a 3- 0 vic­tory over the An­gels on Fri­day, is be­ing groomed as a Ben Zo­brist- like util­ity player.

With Chris Cogh­lan’s trade to the Ath­let­ics last week, Baez added backup first base­man to his du­ties. He started work there this week, us­ing a mitt bor­rowed froma coach.

“It feels all right,” he said. “It’s not bad, but you’ve got to get used to it. It’s like third base but back­wards.”

He showed enough foot­work to han­dle a wide throw from short­stop Ad­di­son Rus­sell and enough hand­eye co­or­di­na­tion to pick a short hop from se­cond base­man Zo­brist.

“He’s fine [ at first]. He looks very com­fort­able,” said Mad­don, who moved Baez from third to first dur­ing a dou­ble- switch Sept. 30 for Baez’s only pro­fes­sional in­ning at the po­si­tion. He had no field­ing chances. “He’s very com­fort­able ac­tu­ally any­where out there.”

The role isn’t one Baez en­vi­sioned when he broke into the ma­jors as a se­cond base­man late in the 2014 sea­son and cer­tainly not when he was drafted ninth over­all in 2011.

“I’m go­ing to be mov­ing around, and I’m fine with that right now,” he said. “My ca­reer is just start­ing. My fu­ture’s go­ing to let us know where I’m go­ing to play. I don’t have any rush to find my po­si­tion right now.”

One year af­ter Baez strug­gled to hit through­out the spring ( and failed to make the big- league club), Mad­don said all the de­fen­sive work could pre­vent Baez from think­ing too much at the plate and help him re­lax more.

“It makes a lot of sense,” Baez said. “We’ll see what’s go­ing to hap­pen.”

Ei­ther way, Baez seems to have brought a height­ened sense of con­fi­dence and be­long­ing to camp, com­ing off his start­ing short­stop role in the Na­tional League Cham­pi­onship Se­ries ( for the in­jured Rus­sell).

“For sure,” he said. “I know what I can do. And [ Mad­don] knows what ev­ery player can do here. So I don’t have to show any­body what I can do. I’m just try­ing to stay healthy and play hard the whole year.”

NOTE: The Cubs fi­nal­ized the last of their player con­tracts, an­nounc­ing agree­ments with all their pre- ar­bi­tra­tion play­ers. That in­cluded Kris Bryant, who will make $ 652,000 this sea­son, an un­usu­ally high 38 per­cent raise for a se­cond- year player ( a func­tion of the club’s es­ca­la­tor pol­icy for pre- ar­bi­tra­tion play­ers). It brings the pro­jected Open­ing Day pay­roll to $ 149.232mil­lion be­fore fill­ing the 25th spot. That will push the pay­roll over $ 150 mil­lion for the first time in fran­chise his­tory.

Af­ter play­ing cen­ter field Thurs­day ( above), Javy Baez played first base Fri­day, though he didn’t have his own first base­man’s mitt. MICHAEL SNEED Trump says Rick­ettses should worry about Cubs, not him. Page 2

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