Hard-charging Baez dodges serious injury, won’t slow down upon return

PITTSBURGH — After sending a scare through the organization when he smacked his face on a guy’s knee Sunday and left because of blurred vision, Javy Baez said he was fine Monday and plans to return to the lineup Tuesday.

The head and eye felt “normal” by Monday, Baez said. The only thing keeping him out of the lineup for another day was some soreness in the left thumb he jammed on the face-to-knee slide into second.

Now the Cubs just have to get through the next few weeks without the ultra-aggressive Baez doing any more harm to himself.

Buckle up.

Baez is assisted by trainer PJ Mainville Sunday after he struck second baseman Ozzie Albies' knee with his face sliding into second.

“I’ve got to play like I play,” Baez said. If not, “that’s the way you get hurt.”

Baez, who is the Cubs’ only everyday-quality shortstop with Addison Russell injured, dodged the more serious injury potential Sunday when, he said, his vision cleared within about 20 minutes after leaving the game and being checked.

Doctors determined he did not require concussion testing.

He expects to be back to swinging big, stealing home and sliding hard again as soon as he returns to the lineup. And nobody’s going to try to stop him.

“You let guys play,” manager Joe Maddon said. “It’s a rough game. It’s a tough game. Things happen. But if you’re trying to protect yourself, you’re never going to play the game up to your capabilities.

“I would never ask him to hold back at any time. He’s wonderful. He’s getting better on a daily basis. You can see how important he is to us right now.”

Mike Freeman, who was signed as a minor-league free agent early last month after the Dodgers released him, has filled in for Baez at short the last two games.

Contreras close

Catcher Willson Contreras, the Cubs’ best everyday player from the All-Star break until suffering a hamstring strain Aug. 9, tested the leg running the bases before the game Monday and could start a minor-league rehab assignment within a week.

“He’s close. He’s really close,” Maddon said, adding the hard running is the last step before testing his fitness in a game. “The arm’s fine. The hitting’s fine. It’s just [about] the docs and training staff [being] comfortable with his running to the point where if he ran in the game he’s not going to hurt himself.”

Maddon said the Cubs want to see Contreras in actual games before returning him to the lineup, which would mean advanced Class A
Myrtle Beach or short-season Class A Eugene before those teams are eliminated from the minor-league playoffs.

Nothing to tweet here

The Cubs shrugged off former Cubs pitcher Brett Anderson’s thinly veiled Twitter shot at the Cubs’ staff Sunday night.

“It’s crazy what happens when you aren’t tinkered with and can just go out and pitch,” Anderson tweeted after giving up two homers and three runs in the Blue Jays’ 5-4 loss to the Orioles — his second start for the Jays since being released by the Cubs after nearly three months on the DL.

“God bless him. I hope he comes back. I hope he wins 20 games next year,” Maddon said. “But when a player has a tough year, it’s on the player.”

Said pitching coach Chris Bosio: “I’m happy he’s healthy and he’s pitching. I’ll just leave it at that.”

Follow me on Twitter @GDubCub

Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com

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