Mesa – The Chicago Cubs have made it clear all spring long that they would be sending shortstop Javier Baez to the minor leagues for the beginning of the regular season, and the team was true to its word as it assigned the 21-year old to minor league camp on Saturday.
In a wide-ranging interview with Cubs.com, Baez expressed all of the right sentiments about his demotion, and said that he is looking forward to continuing to work on his game as the organization gives him pointers on how to do so.
“There are a lot of people here, veteran guys, so I understand,” he said. “I’m just going to go over there and play the game like I’ve been doing, play hard every day.”
Baez has been playing hard for the Cubs all spring long, and he has had a very good Cactus League season. With a batting average over .300 and five home runs to his credit, Baez’s bat has been red hot in Arizona, but he also told the website that he will be looking to improve on his defense as he prepares to head to Des Moines.
“I talked to them about that, and I just have to try to make my throws to first base from short,” he said. “A lot of times, my hand is sweating, and I’m like kind of scared to throw over. This year, I’ve been doing pretty good.”
It’s one thing for a player to talk a good game about trying to improve his skills in areas in which they are deficient, but with Baez, it’s pretty clear that he’s buying into what the organization is telling him. Rick Renteria has been known to work well with Latin American players, and that was one of the main reasons that the team hired him. He clearly has a good relationship with Baez, and in interviews this spring both men have spoken very highly of each other.
The real question for the Cubs at this point is whether or not they are going to be able to stay patient enough with Baez’s development to not rush him to the big leagues. The team is understandably hopeful that they can take a good step forward this year, and potentially adding players like Mike Olt to the lineup should hopefully infuse some new life into what has been a putrid offense.
Add to that the hope that Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro will be eager to prove that last season’s struggles were a fluke, and there is finally some reason for optimism on the North Side. A pennant isn’t exactly part of the picture right now, but at the very least it seems like the long dark rebuilding period is over as the team tries to make the next step in the process.