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Javy Baez back in big leagues, trying to prove he belongs in Cubs' young core

Javy Baez was back in the Cubs' lineup Tuesday for the first time since last season. He went 0-for-4.

If Javy Baez finds big-league hitting success the second time around, he might go back to day in June when he broke his finger sliding into second in the minors as the turning point.

Baez, who was in the Cubs’ starting lineup Tuesday on his first day in the majors since season, said it was during his earliest work after the June 8 injury that he made the adjustment that helped him take off – hitting .324 at AAA Iowa, including a 16-game hitting streak (.444) to finish.

“I only could swing with one [top] hand, so that’s what I was doing,” said Baez, who missed seven weeks. “And I finally got my swing back.

“Obviously, nobody likes to be injured. But it’s really helping me now.”

He’ll have to wait for the big breakout game in this second time around. Starting at second base and finishing at short, Baez went 0-for-4 with a strikeout against the Reds, driving one deep ball to center in the eighth.

A lot more over the last year went into Baez, 22, toning down his big leg kick and cutting down his huge swing to make him a more consistent performer. Big-league and minor-league instructors have worked more intensely with him since he struck out 95 times in his 52-game big-league debut last year.

“Gradually over time he’s become more consistent with it, culminating over the last week or so in Iowa where it started to become second nature to him,” team president Theo Epstein said after making Baez one of four players added from the minors when rosters expanded Tuesday (also outfielder Quintin Berry, right-hander Trevor Cahill and left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada).

“We think he’s in a good place,” Epstein said Baez. “He’s earned his way and worked his way to this position to come up and contribute to a winning team where he can.”

Baez, the No. 9 overall pick in the 2011 draft, has been playing shortstop, second and third base at Iowa, and has practiced in the outfield. He said he’s ready for any position.

The night after Starlin Castro committed three errors at second, Baez started there, but Maddon suggested his playing status is fluid.

Baez, whose season started with a month leave after the death of his younger sister, just seems eager for his second chance.

“It’s been a really tough year for me and my family,” he said, “plus my injury, where I was out for two months. It made me really patient.

“I’ve been watching all the good things that have been happening here and trying to get my mind right to be here.”