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Baez steps in at shortstop, smashes 34th HR

Cubs' versatile star greeted with MVP chants vs. White Sox
September 22, 2018

CHICAGO -- There aren't many teams who can lose a position player and slide an MVP candidate into that spot like the Cubs will do at shortstop with Javier Baez.As soon as Baez stepped into the batter's box in the first inning on Saturday night against White Sox right-hander Lucas

CHICAGO -- There aren't many teams who can lose a position player and slide an MVP candidate into that spot like the Cubs will do at shortstop with Javier Baez.
As soon as Baez stepped into the batter's box in the first inning on Saturday night against White Sox right-hander Lucas Giolito, the "M-V-P" chants started. Baez responded by hitting the first pitch he saw, a changeup, to left field for his 34th home run, driving in Benjamin Zobrist, who had singled, and giving the Cubs an early lead in an 8-3 victory.
With Addison Russell absent after being placed on administrative leave, Baez will take over at shortstop. Saturday was Baez's 43rd start at shortstop this season, having subbed for Russell when he was injured.
"We're kind of lucky that Javy is able to do that as well as he does," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "He's had a lot of play out there already this year. I feel very comfortable about it."
Baez has been Mr. Versatility for the Cubs, starting 75 games at second and 18 at third base.
"You don't even think twice when you put Javy's name at shortstop," Maddon said.
You also could make a case that Baez is the top shortstop in the National League.
"Think about it -- he might be the best overall shortstop in the league right now, if you want to grade it all out with his offense and defense and baserunning," Maddon said. "American League, there's some competition on that side. Overall, he's a top three, top five shortstop in all of baseball right now, even though he hasn't played there a whole lot."
On Friday, Russell was placed on administrative leave by Major League Baseball after allegations of domestic violence resurfaced in a blog posted by his ex-wife. Maddon said he had not talked to Russell.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.