Cubs fall, prospect Javier Baez crushes HR

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Veteran Seattle Mariners pitcher Randy Wolf had no idea who Chicago Cubs prospect Javier Baez was before he gave up a long home run to him Wednesday night in Seattle’s 8-7 extra-inning victory over the Cubs.

Wolf knows him now.

Baez belted a 2-2 pitch deep into the left-field grass, just missing the scoreboard in the process. It was hit well more than 400 foot and brought teammates -- and opponents -- to their feet.

"I've never seen anything like him,” Cubs first baseman Mike Olt said. “But I'm used to it by now. He's in my batting practice group every day.”

It was Baez’s third home run of the spring, tying him for the team lead with Olt, who homered twice in the game.

Baez’s bat speed often is compared to former slugger Gary Sheffield. Wolf understands the comparison.

“The distance on the home run was comparable,” he deadpanned.

Despite Baez's success this spring, he's still slated to start the year at Triple-A Iowa. The Cubs haven’t wavered from that plan.

McDonald’s outing: James McDonald was happy to just get back to competing, even though his stat line wasn’t impressive on Wednesday. McDonald walked five and hit a batter in 2 2/3 innings while giving up two runs.

“It’s not always going to be 1-2-3, 1-2-3,” he said after his night was done. “That’s what you eventually want. One thing I can control is my effort and the way I competed.”

At this point McDonald is probably a long shot to make the starting rotation if Jake Arrieta isn’t ready by Opening Day.

Russell pitches: Lefty reliever James Russell made his spring debut after a bout of dead arm to open camp. He admits it could be tied to his heavy workload in the past, but he’s feeling fine after throwing an inning on Wednesday. He did give up a home run to left-handed hitter Brad Miller.

“The arm is good,” Russell said. “One mistake. Made some good pitches. Felt great.”

Renteria replay challenge: The Cubs’ Ryan Kalish was called out on a close play at first base in the fourth inning, so Cubs manager Rick Renteria asked for a video replay, his first of the spring. The ruling was upheld. But replays showed the umpires still might have got the call wrong.

Day off: The Cubs have their lone day off of the spring on Thursday, and Renteria is asking his team to get away from baseball for a day.

“I probably shouldn’t have to say it, but some of those guys are going to want to be around it,” he said. “We’re pushing them a lot. They need a break.”

Renteria will probably report to work himself, because pitchers Jason Hammel and Eric Jokisch will pitch against Cubs minor leaguers to stay on schedule.

The quote

“Something that involves animals. Try to go to the zoo. I think I’ll go to the aquarium. Just walk around. I’m a big people watcher.” -- Cubs pitcher Carlos Villanueva on what he’ll do on his day off.