MESA, Ariz. -- If it's Sunday, it must be a new position for the Cubs' Javier Baez, who has started in center field, shortstop, first base and now second base this spring."What I'm trying to coach into him this spring is self-awareness," manager Joe Maddon said Sunday. "Everybody wants to
MESA, Ariz. -- If it's Sunday, it must be a new position for the Cubs' Javier Baez, who has started in center field, shortstop, first base and now second base this spring.
"What I'm trying to coach into him this spring is self-awareness," manager Joe Maddon said Sunday. "Everybody wants to talk about hitting, talk about mechanics at the plate, on defense, whatever. For me, the more self-aware he is, the better he'll do at this."
Baez is a gifted defensive player, and he showed his acrobatic skills Saturday night when he made an off-balance throw to quick-footed pitcher Trevor Cahill at first to get the Dodgers' Joc Pederson in the first inning.
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"I saw [second baseman Ben] Zobrist, and he was playing deep and [shortstop Addison] Russell was on the other side, and I didn't know how far Russell was and if he could get to the ball," Baez said. "I just went for the ball and Cahill got to the bag. It was a hard throw."
It looked like a throw a middle infielder would make, which would seem natural for Baez, who has spent the majority of his playing days at second or shortstop.
"I don't know how I did it, but whatever," Baez said.
It isn't that the Cubs expect Baez to become another super-utility player like Zobrist.
"I try to explain to him," Maddon said, "that pretty much knowing situations, how to deal with situations, understand the game itself, counts, outs, innings, changes, everything you have to think about, whether he's at the plate or on defense, to be able to take account of himself at the moment [will help]. I think he's smart enough to do all that stuff."
And all the defensive maneuverings may help Baez relax more at the plate. He has power, but the Cubs would like more contact and fewer strikeouts. Baez entered Sunday's game with a .267 average and five strikeouts in five spring games.
"I've seen him make really good adjustments at the plate," Maddon said.
Baez said he enjoys playing first base, although he knows Anthony Rizzo has command of that spot.
"I love playing first," Baez said. "I don't know, I feel like I'm DH'ing. It is hard, don't get me wrong. It's hard to run every ground ball because you play kind of far from the bag. You have to run to the bag and turn to find the ball -- that's hard. I was scared to miss a ball because I didn't know how much time I had. I enjoy playing first."
Rizzo may not appreciate the designated hitter reference.
"He'll be mad -- it's all right," Baez said smiling.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.