Cubs counting on more sizzle and maturity from Javy Baez
Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon thought he had seen it all with Javy Baez until his young second baseman showed him something he thought he might not see again.
“Going back in the day, you see Willie Mays doing that a lot,” Maddon marveled to the Chicago Sun-Times after Baez jetted all the way around the bases to score from first on a ball pitcher Jon Lester hit past Brewers' second baseman Hernan Perez for an error that was bobbled in center field by Lorenzo Cain.
“He’s got extraordinary instincts on the bases,” Maddon added. “If he’s running, he will look behind to see what’s going on.”
In the aftermath of his heroics in the Cubs 8-0 whitewashing of their NL Central Division rivals, Baez summed up his eye-popping feats as just another instance of Javy being Javy.
“They let me run the bases how I want to, and obviously I have fun out there,” Baez told the Sun-Times. “In that moment, I was just reacting to the play and hustling down the line.”
Indeed, while the Cubs expect Baez to take the next step in his progression and maturation this season they aren’t about to press him about taking any of the sizzle off his game.
The 25-year-old Baez, once as well-known for his wild swings as his fancy catches, has become a prized pupil of new hitting coach Chili Davis.
“Chili is not up there beating mechanics or (saying) what this guy is going to throw on a certain count,” Maddon recently told the Chicago Tribune. “I’m really not an advocate of that method at all. Pitchers are more proactive, and Chili will talk to them more about what to look for zone-wise.”
When Baez isn’t talking offense with Davis, he’s getting pounded with defensive tips by new infield coach Brian Butterfield.
“Part of his routine is to not miss a ground ball in pregame (work),” Maddon told the Tribune of Butterfield. “Guys like that are so good they may get into some bad habits by using their hand, or hands, and not their feet. So Butter is pounding (using) his feet into him. I like that. Butter’s daily approach should lead to (fewer miscues). His mistakes are routine stuff, ground-ball stuff where he lays back too much and gets flat-footed. That’s normally his issue. Butter will handle that.”
It’s all part of the overall effort to make Baez a complete player and thus a Cubs mainstay and MLB star for years to come.
“This guy can be among the best players in the game," Maddon recently raved on his weekly 670 The Score radio show.