NEW YORK – Javier Baez downplayed the magnitude of being the Cubs starting shortstop in the National League Championship series.
“It feels normal for me to play shortstop,’’ said the 22-year-old Baez, who is being pressed into service because of Addison Russell’s hamstring strain. “I’ve been taking ground balls there the whole year and I’ve been playing short, so it doesn’t feel any different.’’
Baez is more than a capable replacement talent-wise, and he already has parts of two playoff games under his belt, and he homered in one of them, so it’s not like he’ll be shaking in his boots.
Share Events on The CubeThat said, he might need a moment to settle in at Citi Field when Game 1 gets under way Saturday night.
“Obviously with all the fans that are going to be here and the noise, you do get nervous but it’s the same game for me,” he said. “You just have to learn how to slow it down and play the game for nine innings.’’
Baez is not a fan of cold weather so nature’s elements might be a bigger issue for him. The forecast for Saturday night calls for temperatures dipping into the upper 40s. And Sunday night might be a little colder.
“I don’t like the cold weather,’’ Baez said after the Cubs worked out in 60-degree temps at Citi Field Friday. “I’m from Puerto Rico, it’s hot the whole year there.’’
Jorge Soler, who is from Cuba, has worn the open eyes-only hooded ski mask in cold weather and Baez said he might, too.
“But I don’t think it’s that cold yet. Hopefully it will stay fresh.’’
Baez had two hits in Game 3 and Game 4 against the Cardinals in the NLDS, so that should help him to relax.
“I’m seeing the ball really well right now, my approach is great,’’ he said. “I’ve been working with the hitting coach and everything is going good right now for me.
“[Defensively] every ball that’s hit you have to move somewhere. You have to keep paying attention and be ready for anything.’’