Will Baez make Cubs force the issue?
It’s been a lot of fun looking at the minor-league reports lately. Last night for Class AA Tennessee, Javier Baez hit a 2-run walk-off homer as the Smokies beat Chattanooga 8-6. Baez has 14 home runs for Tennessee, and in August, he is 25-for-62 (.293) with 3 home runs and 16 RBI (15 games). At Class A Daytona this year, Baez hit 17 home runs. He has a .985 OPS at Tennessee.
During our pregame session with manager Dale Sveum, I asked if Baez could force the issue with a good spring and at least make the Cubs consider taking him north out of Mesa.
“You don’t count any of that out because we’ve seen it happen before, obviously,” Sveum said. “When you have that kind of numbers and power, sometimes you do force the issue. It’s not in the plans right now, but we’ve all seen it happen.”
The Cubs most likely would like to see Baez open next season in the minor leagues and delay the free-agent clock. But if he hits something like .438 with 8 homers in the Cactus League, the Cubs may have no choice but to bring him.
For today’s game, Travis Wood takes on the Cardinals’ Joe Kelly. Wood is 7-9 with a 3.00 ERA. The Cubs say Wood is one of three starters to have an ERA of 3.00 or lower and also have at least 9 losses. The White Sox’ Chris Sale (8-11, 2.74) and Washington’s Stephen Strasburg (6-9, 2.83) are the others. Wood today is making his 25th start, 1 shy of his career high, set last year with the Cubs.
Sveum also was asked today about the nice work the Cubs are getting from journeyman infielder Donnie Murphy, who has played mostly third base, with Luis Valbuena on the DL.
“Believe it or not, it’s been kind of our most productive position, home run wise,” Dale said. “I think Ransom has 7 or 8, Luis had 6 or 7. Now, Murph has 4 in that position. As far as that goes, the average ain’t been too hot, but at least there’s been some production, and really, good defense from all of them at that position. So it’s been a nice trifecta there that’s really helped our offense out.”
Valbuena has 9 homers, Ransom 9 and Murphy 4. Last year, the Cubs got 12 home runs out of third base.
Outfielder Brian Bogusevic will move his rehab assignment from Mesa to Iowa as he recovers from a hamstring injury. Pitcher Scott Baker will make a rehab start Sunday for Class A Daytona. He had been shut down after several rainouts.
Class AAA Iowa fell 5-2 at New Orleans. Yoanner Negrin got no decision as he worked 6 innings as he gave up 9 hits and 2 runs while walking none and striking out nine. Jae-Hoon Ha went 2-for-4 with his fifth homer. He has hit safely in 17 of his last 18 games. Edwin Maysonet was 2-for-4.
Class AA Tennessee beat Chattanooga 8-6 on Baez’s homer. Matt Loosen started and worked 4 innings, giving up 6 hits and 6 runs while walking five and striking out five. Jonathan Mota hit his seventh homer, going 2-for-4. Christian Villanueva hit his league-leading 37th double.
Daytona (A) got 5 strong innings from Corey Black, who earned the victory in a 5-1 win over Brevard County. Black gave up 8 hits and 1 run while walking one and striking out six. He’s 2-0 with a 3.21 ERA since coming from the Yankees in the Alfonso Soriano trade. Dustin Geiger hit his 14th homer. Kris Bryant (.353) posted his second straight multihit game, going 2-for-4. He has hit safely in four of his first five games with Daytona. Dan Vogelbach went 2-for-4.
The Kane County Cougars (A) got just 5 hits in a 5-1 loss at Burlington. Felix Pena took the loss, working 6 innings and giving up 3 hits and 3 runs, 2 earned. He walked none and struck out five, falling to 4-6 with a 3.91 ERA. Willson Contreras hit his 11th homer, going 2-for-4. Oliver Zapata was 2-for-4, as well.
Boise (A) won for the ninth time in 10 games, beating Tri-City 6-2. Jose Rosario got the win, going 5 innings of 3-hit, 1-run ball. Jacob Rogers extended a hit streak to six games, going 2-for-4 with 2 doubles and 3 RBI. Kevin Encarnacion was 2-for-4 with a walk and a double. He has hit safely in 10 of 11.
Mesa (Rookie) beat the Padres 6-0. Trevor Graham pitched 3 hitless innings. Brian Bogusevic was 4-for-4 with a a double and a steal in the seventh game of his rehab. Mark Malave was 2-for-4 with a double.