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Javy Baez, switch hitter? Cubs star bats lefty for first time in career during rout of Reds

Cubs All-Star shortstop Javy Baez batted left-handed in the ninth-inning of the Cubs’ 12-5 victory over the Reds on Thursday night.

Chicago Cubs v Cincinnati Reds
Baez after Thursday night’s victory in which he batted left-handed for the first time in his career.
Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

CINCINNATI – It’s sure to go down in history as the answer to a trivia question years from now when somebody looks at Javy Baez’s career splits.

Or go down in history as the start of something.

“It wasn’t to make a farce of the game; he can legitimately do that,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said after the 2018 National League MVP runnerup turned around to bat left-handed in a game Thursday night for the first time in his career.

With two out in the ninth inning of a 12-5 Cubs victory over the Cincinnati Reds, Baez faced Reds catcher Kyle Farmer, who was employed to get the final four outs of the game. And after months of talking about it and years of lefty swings in practice, Baez checked with Maddon and finally did it.

“At first I was scared,” Baez said. “The last time I faced a position player [April 27] I was close to doing it, and Joe was like, ‘Yeah, yeah, do it.’ But I didn’t want to because I didn’t know how it was going to be. Tonight everybody was like, ‘You got to do it.’ I asked Joe and he said, ‘Yeah, you got to do it.’

“So I just went up there, and I was kind of nervous, but I wanted to swing so bad.”

With Farmer throwing so slowly his pitches didn’t register on the stadium radar display, Baez swung so hard at the first pitch that he fell to one knee, popping the ball high to center for the final out.

“I tried to wait for it. But it just never got there,” Baez said. “I kind of got jammed a little bit because I was waiting too much.”

He went 2-for-5 right-handed Thursday, including a run-scoring double in the Cubs’ four-run third.

Teammates seemed to enjoy it almost as much as the rare victory on the road.

“I knew he could do it,” said newly acquired catcher Jonathan Lucroy of Baez’s well-established ability to slug lefty in batting practice. “I was hoping he hit a homer. But that was pretty cool.”

So is this a one-time thing or the start of something bigger?

“His left-handed swing is so good,” Maddon said.

Baez earned brief, local viral status with a few batting practice videos of his left-handed batting practice homers at Wrigley Field this season. And Maddon said he’s suggested Baez play winter ball and hit lefty in games.

“That’s the idea that he’s got on his mind,” Baez said with a smile.

But the two-time All-Star said he thinks he’ll just stick to some BP swings for the stretching benefit “and for my back,” he said.

Then, again, maybe just once more in a game?

“I’ll probably do it again if I face a position player or somebody that’s not throwing hard,” he said.

Farmer didn’t seem bothered by the spectacle of the Cubs’ star batting lefty, and Baez said he wasn’t worried about what the Reds might think (even after long being encouraged to try it in similar situations, he still was respectful enough to ask again just before going to the plate Thursday).

“I think every team knows I can hit lefty,” he said. “They saw me on TV and social media.”

And if anybody wants to try him again by sending a backup catcher or 25th man off the bench to the mound, they just might see it in person.