Cubs: Javier Baez hopes to speed up learning curve

Cubs: Javier Baez hopes to speed up learning curve
August 7, 2014, 12:15 am
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DENVER – Javier Baez shrugged his shoulders the day after the big-league debut that drew national media attention and had Cubs fans everywhere buzzing.

“Whatever happens, happens,” Baez said Wednesday, standing by his locker inside Coors Field’s visiting clubhouse. “I’m ready for anything.”

Baez went 0-for-4 during a 13-4 loss to the Colorado Rockies, but each at-bat and every game won’t be make-or-break, even though Chicago baseball sometimes gets covered like the NFL. The Cubs wanted to get some of this out of the way now.

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Eventually, some of the focus will shift away from the uber-prospect who moved the needle on Tuesday night. But CSN Research tweeted out one telling stat: The game Baez won with a home run in the 12th inning had a TV rating among males ages 25-54 that was up almost 102 percent from the year-to-date average.

The Baez Effect can be felt around a 48-64 team. Even Jake Arrieta could look at the big picture after giving up nine runs and 13 hits to the Rockies (45-68), a rare off night after 10 consecutive quality starts, which pushed his ERA to 2.80.

“It’s pretty exciting to see what’s going on within the last few days,” Arrieta said. “We already have guys here who have pretty firmly established themselves. And then you add (Arismendy) Alcantara and Baez now to the mix and we all know what those guys can do.”

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Alcantara – who beat Baez to the majors last month and had been the hot prospect – blasted a two-run homer into the right-field seats.

“Those are things that big-time players do, and he’s capable of being that kind of guy,” Arrieta said. “As far as Baez goes, he just needs to get his at-bats, get comfortable, play here on a daily basis. Don’t get too high. Don’t get too low.

“But those are things that he’ll start to learn and understand the more he’s here, and the more he’s around these guys. But it’s definitely an exciting time for us. It’s going to be fun to watch over the near future.”

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In the present, the Cubs know Baez will struggle, because he’s only 21 years old and there’s a little all-or-nothing, out-of-control element to his game now. But president of baseball operations Theo Epstein made this decision looking toward 2015, when the Cubs are supposed to take some of the training wheels off and put a competitive product on the field.

“We all know it can be very difficult to make significant in-season adjustments as a young big-leaguer,” Epstein said. “If you look at our experience last year just with (Anthony) Rizzo and (Starlin) Castro, both those guys made great adjustments over the offseason that were difficult to make during the grind of the season.

“This timing allows Javy to go play for eight weeks and then take a deep breath this winter. He can take a fresh look at his performance in the big leagues, take it all in and start to make any adjustments.”

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Baez is also a fast learner and a gym rat with ridiculous bat speed, hand-eye coordination and confidence. His track record is struggling for a time at a new level in the minors before turning it on. Are you prepared for that?

“Hopefully not,” Baez said. “Hopefully I figure it out really soon and start doing good.”