MESA, Ariz. -- Chicago Cubs manager Rick Renteria delivered a smart, preemptive message to those thinking top prospect Javier Baez was going to get his big chance at shortstop now that starter Starlin Castro is out for 7-10 days with a hamstring strain.
"We still have [Emilio] Bonifacio and Darwin [Barney] will start playing over there," Renteria said Monday morning. "We've been talking about him playing there. And Baez might get an extra game or so but for the most part Barney and some of the other guys -- we still have [Arismendy] Alcantara -- and some other guys to mix in."
That statement should drive home the point the Cubs aren't changing any of their plans when it comes to Baez and that's even if Castro were out much longer, say weeks or months. After all, the three players Renteria mentioned haven't played a lick of shortstop yet this spring. They're all second basemen.
On purpose or not -- but probably on purpose -- Renteria is trying to reign in a fan base desperate for one of the Cubs' top prospects to make the team out of spring training. They'll have to settle for Junior Lake because it's just not happening. And in the case of Baez that's the right call. He's not ready. Or more to the point, the Cubs won't know if he's ready simply by spring production which, to this point, has been good. He had two hits after replacing Castro on Sunday and two more Monday, including a home run. But he has to dominate at Triple-A Iowa for a while before being called up.
As good a season as Baez had last year, he still made 44 errors and struck out 147 times. His game needs some polishing and a few more months in the minors might do the trick. No one has a crystal ball so there's always a chance he's ready now, but the Cubs aren't in the business of taking chances right now.
In fact, if one of their prospects is major league ready, it's probably third baseman Kris Bryant. His game is more mature -- especially at the plate -- and he has less work to do on defense because he plays a corner position.
Having said that, Bryant is slated for Double-A Tennessee, and that's with no entrenched starter at third base for the Cubs right now. Castro is due back in a week's time and there's no reason to believe his injury will linger much longer, so the plan for Baez doesn't change.
And it shouldn't.