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Javy Baez told he’ll make Cubs’ roster despite strikeout woes

MESA, Ariz. — Maybe it’s not a complete reversal of the tough talk by the Cubs’ front office and new manager Joe Maddon, who said there wouldn’t be any entitlement programs in camp.

But struggling, strikeout-prone Javy Baez said Tuesday he has been told with two weeks left in camp that he will be on the Opening Day roster, and a team official confirmed that Baez was told he’ll make the team as the second baseman.

Publicly, the Cubs continue to say no decisions have been made on Baez and a handful of other roster questions.

But after more than a month with his new team, Maddon seems to have come to the same conclusion many watching the team the last year already knew: He’ll be hard-pressed to field a lineup with anything better than an average defender at any position on a given day.

Baez, who has looked spectacular at times at both middle-infield positions this spring, would solve that issue at second base. That figures to be even more important in the run-challenged cold of the -early-season schedule.

By the time the weather warms, and big offensive potential -becomes more valuable, the team can -decide whether Baez has earned an extended stay.

Maddon has sounded like someone making a case for Baez since Sunday, when he said he had an “epiphany” regarding less conventional ways to look at some roster decisions.

Baez is the only player to start every game since then. And Maddon went on more than one pro-Baez riff talking to media before the game Tuesday against the Oakland Athletics, in which Baez went 0-for-2 with a walk and another strikeout.

He’s 5-for-39 (.128) and ranks among the top five in the Cactus League with 14 strikeouts.

“I might be the only guy sitting around here to tell you I’m really not concerned with [the strikeouts] right now,” Maddon said.

Even with that big, violent, often wild, rarely adjusted swing?

“The swing has nothing to do with it for me,” Maddon said. “That’s the obvious, surface-layer kind of stuff. That’s the part that’s going to change. But if you break down the other components of his game, he’s one of the best young players I’ve seen, period.”

Of course, it’s that swing that creates the record strikeout pace the team saw last year, leads to a paltry number of balls in play and contributes to a woeful on-base percentage (and lower frequency of home runs). And he has shown -little willingness to adjust, even with men on third in close games.

“I get it. I totally get where you’re coming from,” Maddon said. “But ask the pitchers what they think when he’s playing defense. How about the runs that you save?

“I come from the land of run prevention, too. And that’s part of my evaluation process.”

Maddon has spent the last several days in particular raving about Baez’s fielding, arm and base-running instincts, which rival anyone’s in camp (never mind the paucity of opportunities to show it).

Regardless of what he has been told about making the team, Baez said, “I don’t want to take it like that. I want to take it like I’m at spring training, and I don’t stop working and I’m not giving up anything.

“But, yeah, for sure, I’m ready for Chicago and just to help the team.”

Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com
Twitter: @GDubCub