Baez's power has teammates buzzing, too

MESA, Ariz. -- Chicago Cubs shortstop Javier Baez said his Facebook page and Twitter account were busy with messages to go along with the texts he received after hitting yet another mammoth home run on Wednesday night in a Cactus League game against the Colorado Rockies.

And it seems the buzz he's getting from the outside world is matching what he's getting from his own team.

"You don't see balls go that far," teammate Donnie Murphy said Thursday morning. "When you see a 21-year-old shortstop doing that, that's just completely different."

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Baez's home run off reliever Rob Scahill in the eighth inning Wednesday went 452 feet.

"My first year I played in fall league I hit a ball that far, too," Baez said casually. "That's the best ball I hit this spring training."

Baez has hit five home runs in Cactus League play and all have been blasts, with only one pulled to left field.

"I'm impressed with his bat speed," outfielder Justin Ruggiano said. "It seems like he can be behind on a ball and still catch up to it. That's the most impressive thing to me. And the fact that he hits to all fields, that's something as a young player you don't see as often. It's hard to teach that."

Baez has come a long way. He still strikes out a lot -- he has 12 this spring against no walks -- but what slugger doesn't? His ability to make adjustments and go to the opposite field has been the most impressive aspect of his spring ... besides the monster home runs, of course.

But will it change the Cubs' minds? Baez is slated to start the season at Triple-A Iowa. Manager Rick Renteria answered that question very simply and to the point on Thursday:

"We're looking to make sure whoever we take is not [going] back [to the minors]," he said.

Even Baez gets the question, from friends and family.

"They ask me pretty much every day," he said. "I don't know what to answer."

So the Cubs want to be sure before starting his major league career. It doesn't hurt that it can save them some money down the road and that means fans are left with accolades from others.

"When we first saw him swing we thought pitchers would start figuring that out but they haven't," reliever James Russell said. "He's definitely forcing the issue for the guys up top. It's fun to watch. Hopefully he stays within himself.

"When you see him go the other way and hit off-speed pitches, that's when you realize this guy knows how to hit. It'll be fun to see him face the [Adam] Wainwrights and [Francisco] Lirianos. You want to see him face guys like that and see how he handles it."

Baez says he's not overly impressed with the balls he hits considering he's been doing it his whole life, but he doesn't deny it's a good feeling.

"You don't feel the ball hit bat, that's when you [know] you hit it good," he said.

A scary moment came later in the game when Baez fell awkwardly catching a popup in short left field. His wrist and knee were sore for a moment but he refused to come out of the game. Cubs brass breathed a sigh of relief.

"It's funny to watch him swing before the home run," third baseman Mike Olt said. "He's not even close. It's like he's begging the pitcher to throw it again ... He's got so many things going on in his swing. You think 'When are they going to catch up to him?' And they don't."

And the sound of the ball hitting bat is unique.

"Some people when they hit it, it sounds like a dud. His is like a smack," Murphy said.

Anthony Rizzo added: "He just doesn't miss the fastball. It's really key. The key to hitting a curveball is not missing the fastball. It's a great start."

It's more than fans who want to see Baez in a major league uniform. He can make a tangible difference in the Cubs' win-loss record, but most important is the signal it sends to the baseball world.

"He's starting a buzz," Russell said. "It's exciting to see the whole rebuilding thing show signs of life."