Cubs, White Sox Wednesday spring-training report
Tag, you’re it!
If we have learned anything about Javy Baez, it’s never get drawn into a game of tag with the Cubs’ fiery infielder.
You would be hard-pressed to find another current player in the majors who plays with as much pure passion and joy than Baez. He drove that point home during the 2016 postseason, then completely stole the stage Tuesday night at the World Baseball Classic.
Here’s what happened. Two outs in the eighth inning, Nelson Cruz of the Dominican Republic breaks on a steal of second base. Puerto Rico catcher Yadier Molina — did we mention he’s 34? — fires a perfect throw to second base. A perfectly positioned Baez is waiting at the bag. He catches the ball and simultaneously points back to home plate BEFORE he applies the tag on Cruz.
End of inning.
A beaming Baez threw the ball clear up to the third deck at Petco Park in San Diego as he ran off the field.
Puerto Rico won 3-1 in the second round to snap the Dominican Republic’s 11-game WBC winning streak. And Baez continued to show he’s one of the most fun players to watch in Major League Baseball.
Snap tags aside, Baez is a slick infielder. The best infielder on the Cubs’ roster. He needs to find a permanent home at second base and manager Joe Maddon needs to keep Baez parked there and find playing time for Ben Zobrist elsewhere.
Maddon hasn’t made that pledge yet, saying earlier in camp that Zobrist would get some playing time at second base.
“We have to balance a lot of different things out,” Maddon said late last month. “He’s going to play some second, of course, and so is [Zobrist]. Zo is going to be out there primarily, and then we’ll work Javy in there. But Zo could also do what he’s done in the past, play some outfield.
“It’s all theory right now. Of course, he’s going to play a lot. How it’s going to balance out, we’re not 100 percent sure yet.”
There’s no question the Cubs are at their best when Baez is at second base and Addison Russell is at short. Cubs pitchers are better. Cubs catchers are better. The Cubs overall are better.
Speaking of Cubs we love, Carl Edwards Jr. has found a new fan in … Carl’s Jr. restaurants.
Thanks to a terrific feature this week from our Steve Greenberg, the Cubs’ wiry reliever landed on the fast-food chain’s radar thanks to this quote: “I’ve actually been trying that Carl’s Jr. First of all, because — hello — I’m Carl Jr. So I’ve been eating some Carl’s Jr. burgers. It’s been pretty good.”
That prompted the crafty folks running the restaurant’s social-media account to reach out to the big-leaguer on Twitter.
We love it!
Best part, this all gives us a chance to run a Super Bowl ad from the restaurant (it’s baseball-related because it features Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander’s outspoken girlfriend, Kate Upton). Enjoy.
BUT THERE’S A CATCH
Miguel Montero is having a phenomenal spring training, not at all looking like his 33 years are wearing on him.
You can be sure Maddon has noticed.
“Right now,” Maddon said, “he’s looking as good to me as he has here maybe ever.”
Wait for it … there’s a but …
“Willson [Contreras] is the guy, and Miggy knows that,” Maddon said of the second-year catcher. “I don’t want to just alter plans. Maybe part of the reason why Miggy’s showing so well is because of the schedule he’s on. So you don’t want to alter that right now.”
Either way, the Cubs will be in fine shape in the post-David Ross era.
Speaking of Ross, it was revealed that he and dance partner Lindsay Arnold will dance to “Go, Cubs, Go” when they compete on “Dancing With The Stars.” It’s safe to say Ross is familiar with the tune.
ON THE SOUTH SIDE
All signs point to right-hander Carson Fulmer, the White Sox’ 2015 first-round pick, opening the season at AAA Charlotte. In a morning post from our Daryl Van Schouwen, the Sox’ opening rotation — barring a last-minute trade — will look like this: Jose Quintana, Carlos Rodon, Miguel Gonzalez, James Shields and Derek Holland.
“There’s a significant change between his first spring last year and this year,” manager Rick Renteria said of Fulmer. “A huge difference. Slowed his delivery down, his windup and he’s able to command the zone better. Mixes his pitches well.”
POLITICAL DEMOLITION NIGHT
Chicago’s re-energized Board of Ethics sent shock waves through the aldermanic community with a warning prohibiting them from accepting the White Sox’ offer to attend the April 3 home opener against the Tigers and a pregame “cocktail reception.”
This has been a way of life for alderman for years.
Ethics Board Chairman William Conlon warned aldermen, department heads, the city clerk and treasurer to just say no.
“Because the value of this package is worth more than $50 to any single recipient and does not fall into any of the exceptions provide in the law, [such as personal appearance in connection with one’s official city responsibilities], it is prohibited under the gift restrictions” of the ethics ordinance, Conlon wrote.
So much for fun at the old ballpark.
AROUND THE HORN ON TWITTER