MESA, Ariz. – Another day, another position for Javy Baez – who made his first professional career start at first base Friday before so much as acquiring his own first baseman’s mitt (he said one’s on the way).
“I’m just trying to play,” said Baez, a shortstop by trade who started in center field Thursday in the Cubs’ spring opener – and who is bracing for the possibility of never playing the same position twice in a row this spring. “Who knows?”
Baez, who went 1-for-2 with a stolen base and run scored in Friday’s 3-0 Cactus League victory over the Angels, is being groomed as a Ben Zobrist-like super utility player.
With Chris Coghlan’s trade to the Athletics last week, Baez added backup first baseman to his duties. He started early work there this week, using a mitt borrowed from a coach.
“It feels all right,” he said. “It’s not had, but you’ve got to get used to it. It’s like third base but backwards.”
In Friday’s game, he showed good enough footwork to handle a wide throw from Addison Russell at short and hand-eye skill to pick a short hope from Zobrist at second.
“He’s fine [at first]. He looks very comfortable,” said Maddon, who moved Baez from third to first during a double switch Sept. 30 for Baez’ only professional inning at the position (he had no fielding chances).
“He’s very comfortable actually anywhere out there.”
The role isn’t one Baez envisioned when he broke into the majors as the Cubs’ second baseman late in the 2014 season – and certainly not when he was drafted ninth overall in 2011.
“I’m going to be moving around, and I’m fine with that right now,” he said. “My career is just starting. My future’s going to let us know where I’m going to play. I don’t have any rush to find my position right now.”
One year after Baez struggled to hit throughout the spring (and failed to make the big-league club), Maddon said the defensive work all over the field this spring could provide Baez the added benefit of not allowing him to think too much about hitting and maybe even be able to relax more at the plate.
“It makes a lot of sense,” he said. “We’ll see what’s going to happen.”
Either way, Baez seems to bring a heightened sense of confidence and sense of belonging into camp this spring, coming off his starting shortstop role in last year’s National League Championship Series (for the injured Addison Russell).
“For sure,” he said. “I know what I can do. And [Maddon] knows what every player can do here. So I don’t have to show anybody what I can do. I’m just trying to stay healthy and play hard the whole year.”