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Pushed aside Friday, Cubs’ Baez moved into cleanup spot

Shawn O'Malley steals second base as Chicago Cubs second baseman Javier Baez waits for the throw during the first inning of a baseball game Friday. (Bob Chwedyk/Daily Herald via AP)

Javier Baez may never again be in a position to be shoved aside by an umpire, but a day after he was, he could only smile.

Baez was pushed out of the way by home plate umpire Eric Cooper while attempting to direct David Ross to slide on Chris Coghlan’s second-inning two-run single during the Cubs’ 12-1 win over the Mariners on Friday.

Baez said Saturday that he was too into the moment to notice he was in a place where Cooper would normally position himself to see a close play at the plate. He said it wasn’t until after Friday’s game when friends told him it appeared Cooper had shoved him pretty hard.

After the play was over, Baez said Cooper apologized, giving the two a lighter moment to enjoy.

“He didn’t know how hard he pushed me,” Baez said. “I just had my hands up and he got me in the ribs. He pushed me pretty hard, but I was just happy I was 3-for-3 and I wasn’t really thinking about that.”

Manager Joe Maddon inserted Baez into the cleanup spot Saturday after giving first baseman Anthony Rizzo a day off. Baez said he doesn’t necessarily care where he hits, but he doesn’t see himself fitting into the four-hole on a regular basis.

“I’m too fast for that,” Baez said.

But with Rizzo out of the lineup, Maddon said he likes the impact Baez can have not only for himself, but for those hitting around him.

“I just thought he’s got the best chance right now of hitting against a left-handed pitcher in that particular spot in the batting order,” Maddon said. “And I also believe from what I’ve seen recently Addison (Russell) really responds to the 5-hole. It kind of perks him up a little bit.

“(So) let’s do it. These are young guys. (Willson) Contreras has struggled a little bit lately, so moved him back down to the seventh hole. Put him between (Jason Heyward) and (Miguel Montero), so we’ll see how that plays out. It’s a little different look, I understand that, but based on purely the numbers, it’s not a bad look, really.”

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