Baez makes things count even when he's behind

Edwards promotes healthy and active lives for kids

June 26th, 2019

CHICAGO -- Here is the truth about Cubs shortstop when it comes to his approach at the plate: The count does not matter as much as it might for another batter.

"With Javy, the count matters," Cubs hitting coach Anthony Iapoce said. "But what he's trying to do matters more to him."

That evaluation alone does not really explain how Baez has far exceeded the MLB norm for production on or after an 0-2 count. Baez entered Tuesday with nine home runs after a plate appearance began 0-2. There are nine teams that do not collectively have more than that many homers in the same situations.

Baez was at it again Monday in the Cubs’ 8-3 win over the Braves. He started off down 0-2 in three of his at-bats and walked away with a single, double and groundout in those battles. That came one night after he crushed an opposite-field, three-run game-deciding homer on an 0-2 count to beat the Mets.

"He is really good at simplifying things," Iapoce said, "especially in today's game, where in baseball, and society in general, complicated is cool. For Javy, simple is cool. It's as simple as shortening that leg kick, maybe putting in a toe tap right here -- things that they required you to do in high school and make adjustments on your own in college and really trust themselves more than any type of information that may be out there.

"I think players are afraid to do that, to make those types of adjustments with the pitch and in the box. That's what he thinks is necessary at that moment."

As Iapoce pointed out, Baez does indeed dramatically reduce his leg kick when he gets into certain two-strike situations. There is also an increased awareness of how pitchers are approaching him, too. Over the past two years, it was a safe bet that pitchers would go low and outside on 0-2 against Baez. This year, there have been more up-and-in offering in an effort to set up 1-2 chase pitches.

Entering Tuesday, all MLB hitters combined were batting .152 with a .399 OPS on 0-2 counts and .165 with a .465 OPS in plate appearances that started with an 0-2 count. In 35 at-bats ended on 0-2, Baez has hit .314 with a 1.057 OPS and an MLB-high four home runs. In 76 plate appearances after 0-2, he has hit .311 with a 1.099 OPS and an MLB-high nine homers.

Kimbrel's last Iowa outing?

Right-hander worked a clean ninth inning on Tuesday night, marking his fourth appearance with Triple-A Iowa since he signed a multiyear contract with Chicago on June 7. He struck out two and threw 16 pitches in Iowa's 5-1 victory over Omaha. The Cubs planned to check in with Kimbrel later Tuesday night and monitor his status and recovery into Wednesday to determine whether the next step is another Triple-A game or a call to Chicago.

"He's such a pro and, obviously, a veteran," Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said on Monday. "He knows himself better than anybody else. Getting his input is important. We're getting close to the point where we'll have established enough of a foundation where there's an opportunity to take the next step, provided he feels good with everything."

Edwards assists PLAY campaign

Cubs reliever joined members of the team’s training staff on Tuesday morning to help out with the 2019 National PLAY campaign at Wrigley Field. The initiative is aimed at helping educate area youth about the importance of leading healthy and active lives.

"It's nice just to be able to have an effect on kids," Edwards said. "You get asked questions by the kids, and they try to pick your brain. It's always good for you to teach them. You can say a lot of things out there, but maybe they take one thing home with them and it helps lead to success."

The Ruderman Family Foundation, Taylor Hooton Foundation and Henry Schein Cares Foundation all helped organize and run the program.

Worth noting

• Both Cubs catcher and manager Joe Maddon said Tuesday that they do not expect there to be any carryover from the benches-clearing incident Monday with the Braves. During the altercation, Maddon told Atlanta catcher Tyler Flowers that he would speak with Contreras about what took place, and the manager stuck to his word.

"It was just, 'Listen, you have two options here, Willy,'" Maddon said. "'You can just go talk to the umpire nicely or just don't say anything.' I don't know exactly what he chose, but at that point, it's not between him and Flowers. I don't expect them to hug at home plate or anything like that. I just wanted to make sure that he was good with [umpire John Tumpane]."

• Right-hander (10-day injured list, right shoulder inflammation) and Edwards (10-day IL, left thoracic strain) are scheduled to throw off the mound in bullpen sessions Wednesday.