Cubs’ Javy Baez pronounces himself ‘100 percent’ after slick-fielding comeback
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MESA, Ariz. — Was his hamstring really injured, or was he simply dehydrated? In the grand scheme of second baseman Javy Baez’s extreme talent, does his ingestion of sugary drinks matter in the slightest? Why are we even talking about this?
None of it matters anymore because Baez is back.
Nine days after leaving a game with pain in his left hamstring, Baez took the field again in a game against the Indians at Sloan Park. His first defensive chance was a reminder of how much more fun it is when he’s around. Baez ranged roughly a mile and a half to his right and got his glove on a ball hit by Yonder Alonso, but it trickled away for a base hit.
It was merely a warmup for the real thing an inning later, when Baez pounced on a bullet up the middle by Erik Gonzalez, leaped off one foot, spun and nailed the speedy shortstop at first.
Baez also lined a single to center on the first pitch of his second at-bat against Trevor Bauer and made solid contact again in his third and final time up.
‘‘I feel great,’’ he said afterward. ‘‘I saw the ball good off the bat playing defense. Getting out of the box was good today. I’ve been running the bases early in the mornings, and everything has been good. I feel great now. No more sugar drinks and a lot of water.
‘‘I’m back to 100 percent.’’
And now it’s onward into a season in which Baez will have his biggest opportunity yet to ascend to a star level.
‘‘Now that I don’t get that pressure that I don’t know if I’m going to play tomorrow or not, it’s going to help me a lot,’’ he said.
Speaking of ‘‘tomorrow’’: Baez will get some innings at shortstop in a split-squad game Sunday against the Indians.
Jose at the bat
Left-hander Jose Quintana looked in vintage form in a split-squad game in Las Vegas, pitching six scoreless innings, allowing only one baserunner (on a two-out single in the first) and retiring the last 16 batters he faced.
But it might have been easy to overlook the signs that suggested he can reach a new level this season.
In his first plate appearances of the spring, Quintana nearly dropped a single into right field, lined a ball hard to center and sacrificed successfully.
‘‘My swing is getting better,’’ said Quintana, who has been working every day on his hitting as he prepares for his first full season in the National League. ‘‘It’s really important. I’m a hitter. I have a spot in the lineup, so I need to try to do the best that I can to help myself and my team.’’
Quintana, who bats right-handed, went 2-for-25 (both singles) in 13 starts in NL parks last season for the Cubs. They were his first big-league hits.
‘‘When I hit the line drive to right field, I thought, ‘Oh, my God, I got a base hit,’ ’’ he said. ‘‘It’s really cool. I’m really confident now.’’
Contributing: Gordon Wittenmyer
Follow me on Twitter @SLGreenberg.