Javy Baez’s injury scare a reminder of regenerated hype, hope around 2018 Cubs
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MESA, Ariz. — Put away the crying emojis and put down the Xanax.
The Cubs’ season is back on. Second baseman Javy Baez says he’s OK.
“I’m completely fine, 100 percent,” Baez said. “I just cramped for a little bit, but everything’s back to normal.”
Baez set social media ablaze when he left the Cubs’ game against the Padres in the second inning because of hamstring tightness he experienced running out a double. It was the first semblance of adversity for the Cubs since spring training opened nearly a month ago.
“It’s scary,” said Tyler Chatwood, the Cubs’ starting pitcher.
You didn’t have to tell anybody in Cub Nation within range of a Wi-Fi signal.
The response underscored not only how well-regarded the Gold Glove-caliber infielder is among his followers, but it also might have been a cue that towering expectations for this team are back.
With Chatwood and Yu Darvish added to the rotation, the bullpen lengthened with Brandon Morrow and Steve Cishek and every regular position player returning, there’s not an opening on the projected roster.
“Obviously, everybody’s feeling good, and we’ve got a lot of energy in the clubhouse,” Baez said of the vibe this spring. “Since Darvish signed, we’ve kind of got everybody together, and we’re feeling great. I feel the team is as motivated as in the ’16 year. We’ll see when we start.”
Until then, the only potential for distress or unease would seem to be moments such as Thursday’s second inning. Baez hooked a breaking ball into the left-center gap and felt a tug in the left hamstring three steps out of the box.
“I just felt a cramp,” said Baez, who grabbed at the hamstring as he slowed to a jog and bent at the waist to stretch the muscles upon reaching second.
“Obviously, [manager] Joe [Maddon] didn’t want me to stay in the game. But I feel great. I got some treatment. The trainers went all over it, and everything’s fine.”
He thinks it might have been nothing more than dehydration.
“Actually, I haven’t been drinking a lot of water,” he said. “I drink water during the workouts, but outside of the workouts, obviously, it’s important, [too].”
Just because Baez said he feels great doesn’t mean he’s clear of any concern at this point. He expects to get treatment Friday morning again and have his playing status evaluated then.
But he already was scheduled to have Friday off and said he expects to play Saturday, unless the Cubs want to play it cautiously with three weeks to go before the season opener and give him an extra day or two.
“I’m not worried about it,” he said.
As much as anything, the incident was a reminder of how much the Cubs have at stake if certain players go down. The infield in particular this season could be as strong defensively as it has been since the core was put together.
First baseman Anthony Rizzo already is a Gold Glove winner, shortstop Addison Russell has been a Gold Glove finalist and Maddon just in the past week said he has seen enough improvement in Kris Bryant at third to suggest he could win a Gold Glove if the field of candidates in the National League wasn’t so strong right now.
And Baez is probably the best fielder in the group — at more than one position.
“I’m a big ground-ball guy, so having those guys, they’re pretty elite out there,” Chatwood said. “Just being able to play to my strengths and have those guys make a lot of plays behind me is going to be a lot of fun.”
And now back to your regularly scheduled spring cruise toward April.
Follow me on Twitter @GDubCub.