Baez turning heads at Cubs camp

The Associated Press
Baez turning heads at Cubs camp
.

View photo

Chicago Cubs shortstop Javier Baez warms up before a spring exhibition baseball game against the San Francisco Giants in Scottsdale, Ariz., Monday, March 10, 2014. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

MESA, Ariz. (AP) -- Javier Baez made it easy to pay attention to him.

Hitting 37 home runs last year, and that doesn't even include home runs on three consecutive pitches in spring training, tends to put the focus on a prospect like Baez, the 21-year-old who was the first-round pick for the Chicago Cubs in 2011.

''Obviously, he's an exciting player, as you guys all have seen,'' manager Rick Renteria said. ''It's not like you can hide it.''

Then shortstop Starlin Castro, a two-time National League All-Star, hurt his right hamstring on March 2. All of a sudden, those Baez projections were sped up. Would he get the call should Castro miss significant time in the regular season?

A bit of intrigue was added with the news that he is going to start seeing time at second and third base this week in pregame workouts at spring training.

Yes, Baez is still expected to start in Triple-A Iowa and Castro has played no less than 158 games over the last three seasons, but it seems there will be a time in 2014 when Baez makes his major league debut.

Even Castro is on board.

''I don't make that decision, but that can be good for us, if he's here,'' Castro said. ''He can hit, no doubt about it. He's a good player. Everybody knows that.''

Baez, who hit a combined .282 with 75 extra-base hits and 111 RBIs at Single-A and Double-A in 2013, is taking the right approach while making the most of his opportunities. He is hitting .333 in a team-high 18 at-bats with two home runs through the weekend.

''I am just going to try to play better and work on my defense,'' he said.

The defense is the biggest concern when it comes to Baez. He had 44 errors (31 in 76 games at Single-A and 13 in 54 games at Double-A) in 2013.

''A lot of my errors are because I get a ground ball and I look at the runner and I know when I have to throw the ball (so he hurries sometimes),'' he said. ''I am going to try to play (any position) they ask me. I'll do my best.''

The 23-year-old Castro has been encouraging in what isn't always a comfortable situation.

''I tell him, 'Play hard, and you'll be up there no matter what,''' Castro said. '''I don't know where, but you'll be there because you've got great talent and you play the game the right way.'''

As a first-year manager of the Cubs, Renteria figures to be the benefactor of Baez's emergence whenever it might happen.

''Obviously, for us, the idea of Baez is in the future,'' Renteria said. ''So right now I'm glad Starlin feels that way, and I'm sure the feeling is mutual. They both respect each other immensely. Somewhere down the road, when that happens, I'm sure it'll be nice to see.''

Sign up for Yahoo Fantasy Hockey
Sorry you didn't like this comment. Please provide a reason below.

Are you sure?
Rating failed. Try again.
Request failed. Try again.
We will promote constructive and witty comments to the top, so everyone sees them!
Sorry, we can’t load comments right now. Try again.
    • Raines hopes to finally get call to Hall

      Raines hopes to finally get call to Hall

      The 1982 All-Star Game at Olympic Stadium was the first outside the United States, the host Montreal Expos giving the event a distinctive international flair. As Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn looked on, … More »

      AP - Sports - 5 hours ago
    • On ballot for final time, Tim Raines hopes for Hall entry

      The 1982 All-Star Game at Olympic Stadium was the first outside the United States, the host Montreal Expos giving the event a distinctive international flair. As Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn looked on, … More »

      AP - Sports - 5 hours ago
    • Cardinals intent on improving, not chasing champion Cubs

      A month before spring training, the St. Louis Cardinals already have plenty of motivation - they're focused on returning to the playoffs, rather than trying to overtake the rival Chicago Cubs. In fact, Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak really … More »

      AP - Sports - 15 hours ago
    • Maddon rehashes dicey Game 7 logic: 'There's no Game 8'

      Maddon rehashes dicey Game 7 logic: 'There's no Game 8'

      There's no ivy in sight and the river running alongside the downtown hotel where thousands of Cubs fans gathered this weekend is frozen solid. Namely: What was manager Joe Maddon thinking when he pulled starter Kyle Hendricks in Game 7, starting a … More »

      AP - Sports - Sat, 14 Jan, 2017 6:35 PM EST
    • Bagwell's Hall of Fame wait likely to end after 7 years

      Bagwell's Hall of Fame wait likely to end after 7 years

      Jeff Bagwell spent a career putting up huge stats, the kind that often get posted on plaques in Cooperstown. Whether he's elected or not, Bagwell says he'll feel something other than happiness or disappointment when the results are announced … More »

      AP - Sports - Sat, 14 Jan, 2017 4:26 PM EST