Baez asks out of lineup to rest ailing heel

June 1st, 2019

ST. LOUIS -- The Cubs are hoping that the right heel issue that continues to plague shortstop does not develop into an injured list situation. The discomfort was severe enough on Saturday that Baez walked into manager Joe Maddon's office before batting practice and asked out of the starting lineup against the Cardinals.

"For him to say something," Maddon said, "it had to be pretty sore."

The heel trouble traces back to May 19, when Baez bruised his right foot on a defensive play in a game against the Nationals, forcing him to leave the game. Over the past two weeks, Maddon and the Cubs' training staff have worked with the star shortstop to find spots to get him off his feet to help allow the foot to heal. During Chicago's recent series in Houston, for example, Baez served as a designated hitter in two games and played third in one.

If Baez continues to avoid an IL stint, Maddon said the infielder could see more time at third base. The reason would be that it cuts down on the lateral movement and reduced the number of times that Baez would need to step on a base. Maddon indicated that Baez may have aggravated the issue while turning a double play recently.

"That's why we put him at third base," Maddon said. "I don't know. When he's feeling good again, we might have to figure out a way also again to put him in a spot he doesn't have to move as much, and see how that plays."

If Baez were to get some more innings at third, Addison Russell would be the top choice to fill in at shortstop, with David Bote as the backup option. Third baseman Kris Bryant could shift to a corner-outfield spot and Bote (Bryant's backup at third) could continue to get innings at second base, along with Daniel Descalso.

On the season, Baez has turned in a .303/.349/.566 slash line with 13 home runs, 17 doubles, 34 RBIs and 37 runs scored in 54 games. Heading into Saturday, he was batting .205 with a .664 OPS in 43 plate appearances (11 games) dating back to May 19, when the heel issue first flared.

"I don't really think it has anything to do with his offense," Maddon said of the persistent injury.

Following the initial injury, Baez sat out on May 20, but then came off the bench on May 21 and delivered a pinch-hit, walk-off single in the ninth against the Phillies. He then played the next five games at shortstop ahead of the series in Houston. On Friday, Baez played all 10 innings of the Cubs' 2-1 loss at shortstop.

"It's definitely a day-by-day situation," Maddon said. "Let's just see what happens, talk to the trainers, talk to him and then build a game plan coming out of it."

Worth noting
• Right-hander Pedro Strop, who has been on the injured list since May 8 with a left hamstring injury, is scheduled to make a Minor League rehab appearance with Triple-A Iowa on Sunday. It will mark the third rehab outing for Strop, whose next step will likely be rejoining the Cubs' bullpen.

"With good health and that he comes out of it feeling well," Maddon said, "I would imagine that he'd be back with us right after that. We're just trying to be true to him and to biology, how long it's supposed to take to come back from that injury. Even though he's felt really well, we just thought it wasn't wise to push it right now."

• The Cubs' offense turned in a .284/.393/.515 slash line with runners in scoring position over the season's first 32 games. Including Friday's 0-for-8 showing, Chicago had a .165/.294/.310 mark with RISP in its last 23 games, entering Saturday. Maddon said the best way to correct the issue is for his hitters to get back to embracing an "up the middle" mentality.

"You just talk about middle of the field," Maddon said. "You talk about staying centered. You talk about two-strike approach. You talk about moving the baseball. You talk about things like that. I think, for me, the best way to really infiltrate is just to really focus on staying in the middle of the field. You don't get too pull happy. You don't try to do too much. We really doing that really well, but then it's gotten away from us."

• Outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, who signed a Minor League contract with the Cubs, was scheduled to report to Triple-A on Saturday. Gonzalez is expected to play a handful of games with Iowa before joining the Major League club.