Baez the center of attention as 'JavyTime' hits Wrigley Field

Baez the center of attention as 'JavyTime' hits Wrigley Field
August 8, 2014, 8:15 pm
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Tony Andracki

As Javier Baez set social media on fire this week, the phrase "JavyTime" has become commonplace when referencing the Cubs' uber-prospect.

Baez says he doesn't know where that term comes from, but he has become a must-see attraction for the Cubs, just like Manny Ramirez - Baez's mentor down at Triple-A Iowa the last couple of months - was for the Boston Red Sox.

And like the Red Sox did with Ramirez, the Cubs are going to stay out of the way and just let Javy be Javy.

[RELATED - Cubs GM Hoyer on Baez: 'He's a special talent']

Baez showed off some of the swagger that he will bring to the Cubs in his Wrigley Field debut as "JavyTime" hit Chicago's North Side for the first time Friday afternoon.

That confidence was there from the outset when Baez was asked pregame how he manages all the hype: "I just make it look easy, I guess."

The kid who has a tattoo of the Major League Baseball logo on the back of his neck saw his dream come true this week with a call-up to "The Show" and responded by hitting three homers in his first three games, something that hasn't been done since 1954.

The day after he hit two home runs in a Cubs victory in Colorado, Baez rode the wave of a roaring welcome from the 34,937 in attendance at "The Friendly Confines" Friday, singling and scoring in the first inning.

But that high didn't last long, as the 21-year-old struck out the next four times up, swinging at pitches out of the zone and failing to even put the ball in play to move a runner over from second base in a crucial spot in the eighth inning. Baez also struck out in the 10th inning as the Cubs lost 4-3, going down to one knee while swinging through a changeup from Tampa Bay Rays reliever Brad Boxberger.

"There was nothing different," Baez said about his home debut. "I wasn't nervous or anything. I was just not being pitched around the plate and kept swinging at bad pitches.

"I just gotta be patient. Tomorrow's another day."

The Cubs know this is just part of the learning curve for Baez.

[MORE - Javier Baez becomes Wrigley Field’s marquee attraction]

"I think he will learn through this experience, gain something from it," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. "It's going to be a process that he gains experience from. That situation [in the eighth inning], as it's talked through, he'll come to
understand where he's at.

"I think he has to trust his skill. You gotta allow these guys to do what they do. It's easier to take somebody that's aggressive to tone them down than it is to try to get somebody to be more aggressive when they're passive. He'll be fine."

The Rays were ready for Baez. They already had an infield shift on the rookie (three infielders to the left of second base) by the latter innings and Tampa Bay pitchers threw Baez very few pitches in the zone, getting him to chase.

That aggressiveness‬ is part of Baez's profile, a big reason why he became a Top 10 prospect. The Cubs don't want to change that approach. At least, not yet.

"Power has been a big part of his game," Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said. "The ability to leave the ballpark from any part of the zone to any part of the park in any count in any situation, that's something that is kind of a subtext of every at-bat and certainly keeps pitchers honest.

"But Javy still has to think his way through an at-bat and find a pitch that he can drive. When he swings at pitches that he can drive - and there are a lot of them - he's in good shape.

"But obviously, we don't want to take his aggression away from him. He swings hard and he's strong and that creates the ability to leave the yard and change the game. That's something that we like."

Baez has already changed the game in one area for the Cubs. There is a definite buzz around this team now, even though they're still in last place in the standings.

[RELATED - Cubs staying aggressive in quest for impact pitching]

Baez's at-bats have become must-see events, a nice reward for the Cubs faithful that have dealt with five straight fifth-place finishes (barring a crazy end to this season).

"It's great for the fans," Epstein said. "Our fans have been awful patient with us as a whole organization. This is a nice day for them to get to see a player in person they've read a lot about.

"It's great for our players, too. The clubhouse had a little bit of buzz the last three games [in Colorado] and taking that home is always nice. It's a nice day for everybody."