Perez: Baez inspirational clubhouse presence
ESPN broadcaster managed Cubs infielder in Puerto Rico during winter ball
PITTSBURGH -- Eduardo Perez was Javier Baez's manager in Puerto Rico during winter ball this past offseason, and the current ESPN broadcaster said he was impressed with the Cubs infielder's ability.
"Defensively and baserunning-wise, instincts, he's phenomenal," Perez said. "His adjustment was hitting. He could do it at the Minor League level."
Cubs manager Joe Maddon, who was Perez's first hitting coach in the Minor Leagues in Boise, and hitting coach John Mallee both made trips to Puerto Rico to work with Baez.
"Santurce gave them the whole stadium and said, 'Do whatever you have to do,'" Perez said of the Puerto Rican team. "We knew what was important was getting Javy ready for the big league level. Same thing with Joe -- he went down there and saw him and spoke with him. I think that right there really helped [Baez]. He realized Joe was one of the guys, and Joe respects him for who he is and how he does his things."
Santurce won the Puerto Rico championship, and even though Baez wasn't there long, he made an impact.
"I think what Javy brought to the team in the clubhouse with his smile and his work ethic and just enjoying the game -- even if he went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, and we won, he was the happiest guy in the clubhouse," Perez said. "We were a much better team with him in the lineup."
• Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo is the team's nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, which is presented to the player who best represents the game of baseball through contributions on and off the field, including sportsmanship and community involvement.
A cancer survivor himself, Rizzo, 26, has focused his efforts on battling pediatric cancer and is a frequent visitor at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital in Chicago. In July, he celebrated the opening of the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation Hospitality Room on the oncology floor at the hospital.
Rizzo's foundation hosts three fundraisers: a "Walk-Off for Cancer" in his hometown of Parkland, Fla., as well as a "Laugh-Off" and a "Cook-Off" in Chicago.
• Because of Tuesday's doubleheader, the Cubs will go with another staff day Saturday against the Cardinals. The candidates to start include Travis Wood, Trevor Cahill and Clayton Richard. Jon Lester, who threw a complete game Tuesday, will then start Sunday in the series finale against the Cardinals at Wrigley Field.
Minor League pitchers Eric Jokisch and Dallas Beeler were working out at the Cubs complex in Mesa, Ariz., to stay ready if needed.
• Addison Russell did not start Wednesday night to give the rookie a breather. One player who hasn't had a day off is Rizzo. Maybe Thursday?
"Forget about it," Maddon said. "I'm being a really bad manager right there -- bad manager, bad manager. I think he's OK. I hope I'm right."