Cubs manager David Ross said that one of the first text messages he received on Wednesday morning was from Javier Báez. The shortstop insisted on being back in the lineup for the two-game series finale in Cleveland.
"He can't stand not being in there," Ross said with a smile in a Zoom discussion ahead of Wednesday afternoon's 2-1 walk-off loss in 10 innings. "He's another one that can't sit still and can't stand to be on the sidelines when competition's going on."
Báez went 1-for-5 with three strikeouts on Wednesday. Lower-back tightness kept Báez out of the starting lineup Sunday against the Pirates and Tuesday against Cleveland. Last month, the shortstop dealt with a left hamstring issue that kept him out of the mix for a handful of games.
And Ross believes that nagging but not serious setbacks such as those help explain Báez's surprisingly subpar showing in the field so far this season.
Entering Wednesday's game, Báez had minus-1 Defensive Runs Saved and minus-3 Outs Above Average in 249 innings at shortstop. He won the National League Gold Glove Award in 2020 after posting six DRS and five OAA (469 1/3 innings), and he was even better in '19 (31 DRS and 27 OAA in 1,116 2/3 innings).
"He's been dealing with a lot of stuff," Ross said. "I think it's just now rearing its head for you guys, but there's stuff he's been dealing with all year that has just slowed him a little bit. I think he'll get back to being the version of himself we're used to."
Led by Báez's defensive showing last season, the Cubs also took home the first Team Gold Glove Award, having logged 25 DRS as a group. Heading into Wednesday, Chicago ranked 26th in the Majors with minus-8 DRS as a team.
Ross said Chicago's analytics team and coaching staff are digging into ways to correct that issue. The manager also cited a few factors, including having some players playing out of position at times, or the contact-based rotation's rough start to the campaign.
"I still think we have a quality defensive group," Ross said. "We're going to need to play quality defense with our starters and that group. And the guys are working really hard and we're definitely on top of that, trying to find the solution to be better."
• After exiting Tuesday's game due to illness (unrelated to COVID-19, per Ross), Kris Bryant remained "super under the weather" and out of the lineup on Wednesday. The manager felt the day off, combined with Thursday's off-day, would be beneficial.
"He didn't sleep much last night," Ross said Wednesday morning. "He wanted to be in there and I was thinking about putting him in there, but I don't think he would be much use for us today."
Bryant came off the bench to pinch-hit in the seventh inning on Wednesday and was promptly hit on the left wrist by a pitch from reliever Cal Quantrill. Bryant exited the game and was replaced on the basepaths by Nick Martini. Ross said Bryant sustained a contusion, but that he was going to be exiting the game regardless due to still feeling ill. The manager said more of an update will come prior to Friday's game in Detroit.
• The original plan was to have Jake Arrieta (10-day injured list, right thumb) throw a bullpen session on Tuesday, but that step in his schedule was moved to Wednesday morning. Ross said the goal is for Arrieta to be activated for a Friday start in Detroit.
"I mean, I don't want to put the cart before the horse," Ross said. "The plan is for him to start Friday, yes. That is the plan, if everything goes well."
• Ross noted that Nico Hoerner (10-day IL, left forearm) took "a ton of ground balls" and ran the bases on Tuesday. Hoerner was slated to do some hitting Wednesday, and barring any setbacks, he looks on target for activation on Friday.
"Everything seems to be progressing well for Nico," Ross said.
• Ross said that Ian Happ (10-day IL, rib contusion) is "a tick behind" in his recovery from the May 2 collision with Hoerner in Cincinnati. That makes it uncertain if the outfielder will be ready to be activated by this weekend in Detroit.
"Each day, Happer improves pretty significantly," Ross said. "So the more he's able to do when he's just not 100 percent, the better, just to stay active."