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Maddon encourages Baez's emotion for game

Cubs manager responds to his second baseman's bat flip vs. Pirates
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

CHICAGO -- Cubs manager Joe Maddon said he was surprised by Pirates manager Clint Hurdle's criticism of Javier Baez's play, and he complimented his second baseman for how he responded to it.

Hurdle said he didn't like it when Baez flipped his bat after popping up in the seventh inning on Wednesday, saying, "Where's the respect for the game?"

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CHICAGO -- Cubs manager Joe Maddon said he was surprised by Pirates manager Clint Hurdle's criticism of Javier Baez's play, and he complimented his second baseman for how he responded to it.

Hurdle said he didn't like it when Baez flipped his bat after popping up in the seventh inning on Wednesday, saying, "Where's the respect for the game?"

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When it happened, one of Baez's teammates talked to him about the bat flip, and after the game, he said he had learned from the experience. And then on Thursday, Baez responded to Hurdle's comments.

"No one plays this game harder than me," Baez said. "But you don't go out there and talk trash about someone.

"To be honest, I have a lot of things I could say right now. I don't control what's out there, what people say about me. I'm just going to keep playing my game."

Maddon addressed the back-and-forth exchange before Chicago's series-opening matinee against Atlanta.

"I was surprised by it," Maddon said Friday about Hurdle's comments. "I did not see it coming at all. Clint and I have had a great relationship. I don't understand why he did what he did. I do believe in not interfering with other groups.

"I thought Javy did a great job in his response and I was very proud of him," Maddon said. "First of all, I didn't see him throwing the bat and missed that completely. When his response to whomever spoke to him and the fact that he owned up to it, my God, what else could you want out of one of your guys?"

Will this add to the Cubs-Pirates rivalry?

"I just know it will motivate Javy," Maddon said. "Javy is motivated anyways. It will be curious to watch him perform in Pittsburgh from now on."

Maddon hasn't said anything to Baez because he felt the Cubs' players took care of the matter themselves, and he said it was a "non-issue."

"If you went to Puerto Rico, [Baez] fits in real well," Maddon said. "You wouldn't be that concerned with how he plays the game. He plays with a joy."

Video: PIT@CHC: Baez pops up, flips bat in frustration

And Maddon likes Baez's flair.

"I don't want him to be robotic," Maddon said. "I never want to take that joy out of his game.

"I love the way Javy plays baseball," Maddon said. "I love the way [Willson] Contreras plays baseball. I love the emotion and the passion. You get the other end of that, you get the guy with none of that drive and is lethargic. I would much prefer [Baez] than the lethargic approach any day of the week."

Worth noting
Kris Bryant made his first start at first base since June 24, 2017, subbing for Anthony Rizzo, who is on the disabled list because of tightness in his lower back. Bryant didn't need to borrow one of Rizzo's gloves but did do some early work before Friday's game with infield coach Brian Butterfield.

"It's just a matter of knowing what to do in certain situations," Bryant said. "I'm ready for it."

The key thing is being in the right place at the right time.

"It's just getting to the bag," Bryant said. "With certain right-handed hitters, you'll be playing a little more pull. As a third baseman, you want the first baseman to get there pretty quick so you're not trying to hit a moving target. That's my big thing is to get there and not be a moving target."

When Bryant won the National League Most Valuable Player Award in 2016, he moved around quite a bit, playing third base and the outfield. He likes being a little uncomfortable.

"Anywhere from taking cold showers to just putting yourself out of that comfort zone is big, especially in sports," Bryant said. "You don't ever want to feel comfortable or complacent, because that's when you start to go backwards."

Maddon has encouraged players to become more versatile because it augments their value.

"There was a time when it was frowned upon," Maddon said. "If you're a second baseman at [Class A] ball or Double-A, there's no way I'm going to put you at shortstop or third base. I don't want to retard your development. When it comes down to it, when the bat's ready, you're ready, so we need to have a position for you."

• Rizzo is eligible to come off the disabled list on Monday and should be ready, Maddon said.

"He's doing really well," Maddon said of the first baseman. "I think he could play today if it was necessary and there weren't the restrictions of the DL."

• Triple-A Iowa won, 6-3, over Nashville on Thursday to give manager Marty Pevey his 1,000th managerial win and 356th with the Iowa Cubs.

"He's a great partner, and in Spring Training, he does a wonderful job in so many different areas," Maddon said of Pevey.

• Cubs outfielder Kyle Schwarber hosted some Marines and their families on Thursday at Wrigley Field. Schwarber provided each guest with a T-shirt, answered questions and gave them a behind-the-scenes look into the new batting tunnels.

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

Chicago Cubs