MESA, Ariz. -- When Joe Maddon talks, Javier Baez listens.Baez told the Cubs manager that a conversation they had last year stuck with the infielder.Cubs Spring Training: Info | Tickets | Schedule"What I talked to him about was when he had to play shortstop, please make the routine play routinely, and
MESA, Ariz. -- When Joe Maddon talks, Javier Baez listens.
Baez told the Cubs manager that a conversation they had last year stuck with the infielder.
Cubs Spring Training: Info | Tickets | Schedule
"What I talked to him about was when he had to play shortstop, please make the routine play routinely, and permit your athleticism to play," Maddon said Wednesday. "When the play requires craziness, you're there, you can do that. But the straight-up ground ball, three-hopper to shortstop, come get the ball, play through it, make an accurate throw in a routine manner. Apparently that stuck."
Baez, who filled in at shortstop when Addison Russell was injured, told Maddon that he used that mantra and it helped him slow things down.
"You don't realize something that simple made an impact on him," Maddon said.
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-- Left-hander Michael Roth, and right-handers Eddie Butler and Jen-Ho Tseng will start the Cubs' first three Cactus League games. Roth, 28, a non-roster invitee who has pitched with the Angels and Rangers, will start the opener on Friday against the Brewers at Maryvale Baseball Park. Butler will face the Rangers on Saturday in the Cubs' home opener at Sloan Park, and Tseng, who was the organization's Minor League pitcher of the year last season, will go Sunday against the Giants in Scottsdale, Ariz.
The Cubs' projected starting rotation of Jonathan Lester, Yu Darvish, Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana and Tyler Chatwood are expected to make their spring debuts next week.
-- Benjamin Zobrist continued to get treatment and did not take part in the Cubs' workout for a third straight day because of some minor back soreness. Maddon said they're just being careful.
-- It's tough to get Anthony Rizzo to take a day off. If he does get a breather, he wouldn't mind sitting in the bleachers to watch a ballgame.
"I think you have to be smart," Rizzo said Wednesday about playing time. "If they know I'm starting to grind a little bit and need a day off, we'll prepare for it. The way I plan for a season is 162 [games], especially with a few more off days. At the same time, I can sit here and say I want to be a big tough guy and want to do that. Days off are necessary. My mind is telling me 162, but there will be days when I'm sure something is going on and you need to take a day. A day off then pays dividends down the line."
He likes being able to sit back, relax and watch a ballgame.
"I'll be honest, when I'm on the bench, I wish sometimes I was in the stands and able to kick back and watch from the stands," Rizzo said. "It's definitely nice to get a day off and be able to kick back and watch the game at a slower pace."
-- Darvish said he talked to Dodgers manager Dave Roberts after the pitcher had decided to sign with the Cubs. Darvish told Roberts that now he wanted to beat the Dodgers.
"He said he was going to beat us," Roberts said. "We had a great conversation. I wished him well and I reciprocated what he said. I feel the same way."
The Cubs acquired not only Darvish, but also Brandon Morrow, who was a late-inning setup pitcher for the Dodgers, and will now be a closer.
"They got better, the Cubs," Roberts said. "Those are two guys we relied on -- but we like our club, too."
-- The Cubs will be one of the Major League Baseball teams to wear caps on Friday honoring Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where 17 people were killed on Valentine's Day.
"I think it's awesome, I think it's cool," Rizzo said of the tribute to his alma mater. "Obviously, it's deeper ties for me than the rest of the league, but it's really neat that Major League Baseball is recognizing what happened in the country."
Players will sign the caps, which will be auctioned off to raise money for the Broward Education Foundation, which will benefit the official Stoneman Douglas Victims' Fund.
Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.