SAN DIEGO – Is it time to just give young Cub Javy Baez the everyday job at second base and let him run with it?
With all due respect to Ben Zobrist, Baez is the best second baseman on the team – its best overall infielder by some estimations.
“He’s unbelievable,” teammate Kris Bryant said. “Any ball hit his way, whether it’s in the air, on the ground or on a line, you expect him to make the play and make it look good.”
Baez did it again in Tuesday’s late game in San Diego on a designed bunt defense with the pitcher batting, charging from second base while first baseman Anthony Rizzo stayed back – then whirling for the perfect throw to second that started a spectacular double play.
The Cubs have only used that play twice this season, both with Baez at second as the key to the play.
“He makes it look like a normal, everyday, routine play,” manager Joe Maddon said.
Baez has pulled off the spectacular from every position on the infield this season – underscoring his value as a moveable defensive piece while at the same time suggesting untapped value as an everyday player at his best position.
Maddon’s not ready to commit to the latter yet.
“Depends on how we morph as a group over the next couple of years,” the manager said. “Right now I like the way it’s working out. You’re seeing a lot of progress. And who knows if by playing sporadically this is becoming more a part of who he is as opposed to playing every day and maybe getting caught in the trap of not hitting well or whatever, and all of a sudden he takes it out on defense?
“He’s an everyday player, there’s no question. Maybe in a couple of years he’s that.”
So he continues to stay alert for starts anywhere, anytime. Wednesday he started at second for the 31st time this season. He also has made 29 starts at third, 13 at short and one at first.
“My spot is going to be there, either now or coming soon,” said Baez, who has calmed his hitting approach to produce a .275 average to go with 13 home runs this season – improvement Maddon repeatedly points out.
“I’m just trying to help the team win,” Baez added. “Obviously, I’m not the only one moving around. I don’t mind it, because everywhere I go I do my job right and I help the team win.”
The pitchers have noticed, especially the way the 23-year-old Baez makes the middle look alongside 22-year-old Gold Glove candidate Addison Russell at short.
“When you have Addison and Baez in the middle of the infield – two of the best athletes in all of baseball – you want the ball to go to those guys,” ace Jake Arrieta said.
Said Bryant: “I certainly think he’s Gold Glove worthy, but he plays all over. There should be a utility man Gold Gove because he definitely deserves it.”
Notes: Setup ace Hector Rondon (triceps) threw Wednesday for the first time since going on the disabled list last week and said he felt no pain. He expects to throw again Friday or Saturday in Los Angeles, and barring a setback, he’s on track for an early September return. …Rizzo got a scheduled day off Wednesday, ahead of the team’s day off Thursday. … Game time for Sept. 24 home game vs. the Cardinals has been set for 12:05 p.m. (Fox TV). … The injury-wracked Dodgers haven’t announced their starters for the weekend series against the Cubs – who go with Mike Montgomery Friday, Jason Hammel Saturday and Jon Lester Sunday. … With Wednesday’s 6-3 victory for the sweep in San Diego, the Cubs have swept five of their last seven series (also vs. Miami, at Oakland, vs. the Angels and vs. the Brewers). … They Cubs (81-45) are 36 games over .500 for the first time since the last year they played in the World Series. They finished that 1945 season 42 games over .500. … Third baseman Kris Bryant has a seven-game hitting streak and is batting .414 (29-for-70) with seven homers and 18 RBIs over the last 16 games.