Live updates from Cubs spring opener: Brewers lead Cubs 2-1
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Happ, Schwarber and La Stella are done for the day. They each had two plate appearances:
Top of the third, Tommy La Stella drives a 2-0 pitch the opposite way to left field for a two-out single that drives home Mike Freeman from second base.
Last year’s failed leadoff hitter, Kyle Schwarber, is batting second today and worked a full count before drawing a walk in his first plate appearance, the only Cub to reach in the first.
MESA, Ariz. – The no-look flash tags, the sizzling throws from the hole, the charge on the grass and flip back to first for highlight-reel outs – it’s hard not to notice Javy Baez when the ball is hit his direction.
Now the Cubs’ second baseman plans to take that part of his game to the next level this season with the promise of an even more regular, stable role at second.
“I want to try to stay healthy the whole year again and try to get that Gold Glove that I want,” Baez said of his personal goals for 2018. “Obviously, a lot of people know of me because of my defense so [the goal is] just try and get that Gold Glove and stay healthy.”
Asked this week whether this is the year Baez gets 600 plate appearances, manager Joe Maddon said, “You’re probably going to see something close to that I would imagine.”
Baez had a career-high 508 plate appearances last year, in part because he became the starting shortstop for two months when Addison Russell was sidelined with a foot injury. He played 80 games at second, 73 at short, eight at third base and four at first.
He’ll move around some again this year, particularly when Russell needs a day off, but second base figures to be his home most days of the season – opening a greater opportunity for Gold Glove consideration.
“I guess you can say that,” he said. “I played a lot last year so I had a lot of [at-bats] and had a great year. We didn’t go as far [as planned], but we’ll just try to be a better team and go win it [this] year.”
A Gold Glove caliber season from the middle infielder would go a long way toward that goal – in addition to the uptick his manager expects from his .273 season last year that included 23 home runs and 75 RBIs.
Despite the career year at the plate last year and the upside – especially with his power potential – that has been talked about since he was drafted ninth overall in 2011, Baez said his goals aren’t as offensive-minded for 2018.
“I’m not worrying too much about that,” he said. “I’m just trying to play defense and [work] on offense and see what happens.”
Friday’s lineup for the Cactus League opener against the Brewers in Maryvale, Ariz. (2:05 p.m., cubs.com audio):
- CF Ian Happ
- LF Kyle Schwarber
- 3B Tommy La Stella
- C Victor Caratini
- 1B Efren Navarro
- 2B David Bote
- RF Jacob Hannemann
- DH Mark Zagunis
- SS Mike Freeman
- (P Michael Roth)
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