<
>

Baez ready for limelight, learning curve

DENVER -- The spotlight on Chicago Cubs second baseman Javier Baez got even larger after the potential superstar in the making hit a game-winning home run in his first major league game.

He doesn’t mind.

"Whatever happens happens," Baez said with a casual shrug. "I’m ready for anything."

Baez had a mixed debut at Coors Field on Tuesday, going 0-for-5 with three strikeouts in his first five at-bats against the Colorado Rockies before the game lingered into the 12th inning and he smashed the first pitch he saw from Boone Logan over the fence.

To be fair, he did hit a piercing line drive to the warning track in the seventh, which followed a bullet to third baseman and defensive guru Nolan Arenado in the fourth inning.

But the trio of Tuesday’s strikeouts suggests Baez's learning curve will be a process.

Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said he expects the youngster to deal with ups and downs for the rest of the season.

"A big part of why we brought him up when we did is we want him to get 50 or so games and get a chance to have those ups and downs," Hoyer said Wednesday on ESPN Chicago 1000’s "The Carmen & Jurko Show." "I'll be glad when he has the ups; I think that will be great for him and his confidence.

"But I think the downs will be great for him as well, as he learns and thinks about what he has to improve over the course of the winter."

Cubs manager Rick Renteria also weighed in on Baez before Wednesday’s game in Denver, telling a group of reporters the only thing he expects from his youngster is to play smart and soak up everything he can for the remainder of the year.

"In terms of the results, what I expect is that he'll go out there and hopefully grind out some at-bats. Obviously, his skill set is his bat speed," Renteria said. "His power would indicate that if he squares up a ball, he has a chance to hit it out of the ballpark. Do I want him to do that every single day? Well, that’s unrealistic.

"My expectation of him is to be here to learn, to grind out some at-bats, to experience the opposition's ability to work him, for him to get a feel and continue to play second base. Play alongside [shortstop] Starlin [Castro] and Rizz [first baseman Anthony Rizzo] on that side. And continue to learn the game."

Baez is hitting in the 2-hole again for the Cubs on Wednesday.