Javy on Frankie: He's the best. I'm 'El Mago'

August 12th, 2020

arrived at Progressive Field for the Cubs' series in Cleveland at the same time as Francisco Lindor on Tuesday. The pair of friends and star shortstops chatted for a few minutes, and Báez actually asked if Lindor would autograph one of his bats for him.

"I already got it in my locker," Báez said with a smile during a Zoom discussion prior to Wednesday's game.

Báez and Lindor -- both from Puerto Rico -- go way back. They both moved to the United States when they were kids. Cleveland picked Lindor eighth and Chicago took Báez ninth in the 2011 MLB Draft. They have been teammates in the World Baseball Classic and foes in the '16 World Series.

And Báez does not hesitate when asked who is the better shortstop.

"I believe he's the best shortstop in the game right now, from our generation," Báez said. "He's the best, but I'm El Mago."

Báez earned that nickname -- meaning "The Magician" in Spanish -- for his wizardry on defense and on the basepaths. The shortstop is known for his lightning-quick tags or tag-avoiding slides. He has also grown into an offensive force in the heart of the Cubs' dynamic offense.

Still, Báez calls Lindor a "complete player," and one worthy of being viewed as the best shortstop in an era filled with elite talent at the position.

Cubs second baseman Jason Kipnis is in the unique position of having played alongside both Lindor and Báez. Ahead of the two-game series against Cleveland, Kipnis was asked if he has any takeaways from being up the middle with both shortstops.

"Yeah, they're both better at baseball than me," Kipnis said with a laugh. "I don't know what's in the water over there or something. But these guys, just their natural ability to play this game is astonishing."

Schwarber scratched

Cubs left fielder was scratched from Wednesday night's lineup due to lingering soreness in his right knee. Schwarber sustained a contusion when he was hit by a pitch from reliever Cam Hill in the sixth inning of Tuesday's 7-1 win over the Tribe.

Cubs manager David Ross said he would try to stay away from using Schwarber off the bench on Wednesday.

"Where that got him, pretty good spot," Ross said. "Getting into your legs and being tender or gentle within your legs and hitting, that just can create a lot of bad habits really fast, and he's been having some of our best at-bats."

Kris Bryant started in left field in Schwarber's place, and utility man David Bote got the nod at third base.

Worth noting

• According to Sports Info Solutions, the Cubs entered Wednesday with nine Defensive Runs Saved as a team, putting them in a tie with the Twins for third most in the Majors. The Dodgers (16) and Indians (11) ranked higher.

"I don't know that defense ever gets enough credit," Ross said. "I don't know if you really value defense until you look back at the end of the year, and you're like, 'Wow, that was a really good team on defense.’

"Unless you're in the day-to-day grind with everybody and you see it, the defensive plays that have won us games already this year."

• Left-hander José Quintana (10-day injured list, left thumb) completed a three-inning simulated game on Tuesday with no issues, according to Ross. There remains no firm timetable for Quintana's return, but the Cubs were encouraged by his latest outing.

"He's not even thinking about his hand at all. That's a good sign," Ross said. "I think he's just got to continue to build. The feedback was good from the coaching staff down there."

• Given that the Cubs were only playing a two-game series in Cleveland this week, the team had pitchers Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood stay back in Chicago to get their between-start work in. Darvish and Chatwood are scheduled to start Thursday and Friday, respectively, against the Brewers.