Great to see Javier Baez return to Triple-A Iowa last night. Playing second base and hitting third, he went 1-for-6 with a double and three strikeouts in the I-Cubs’ 4-2 13-inning loss.
It has been a rough start to the year for Baez, who did not make the big-league club after Spring Training. He then suffered the passing of his sister, Noely, to whom he was very.
Baez took a leave of absence to deal with the tragedy, but now he’s back. And that is a very good thing.
I’m confident he’ll be up with the Cubs at some point this year. Whether he’ll be able to make contact at a consistent rate is one thing, but we know that Joe Maddon loves the other aspects of his game, such as his defense and baserunning. And of course, there’s the crazy power.
I’m rooting hard for Baez to be a contributor for this Cubs team. I’m not sure where he would play, given the current crowded infield. But there could always be an injury, or Addison Russell may not quite be ready yet. Or maybe Baez starts getting some time in the outfield.
These are things we can worry about later. The important thing is that he is back playing baseball. I can only imagine what he has had to go through this season so far.
But what will this Cubs lineup would look like if the pitch-recognition light turns on for Baez? It would really be a thing.
* The Cubs may be interested in RHP Grant Balfour to help with the bullpen, according to Patrick Mooney. Balfour was released by the Rays this week, and obviously can be linked to manager Joe Maddon from their time in Tampa together. I’m not sure how serious the Cubs are about this option, as Balfour is 37 and struggled last year and so far this year. But he did save 38 games for Oakland in 2013. You never know with relievers — maybe he has one last hurrah left. I’d probably rather see James Russell get a shot, however.
* Huge surprise, I know, but Comcast SportsNet is reporting a 110 percent increase in ratings over April 2014. It’s amazing what a little winning can do. This is something I’ve noticed first-hand as well. It has been a pleasure to have my entire family now back into the Cubs. They text me during the games, marveling at Jake Arrieta and Kris Bryant. It’s fun for me, and makes watching the Cubs even more enjoyable. The past few years, whenever I’d try to explain to them about all of the talent that would soon be at Wrigley Field, I’d usually get a polite nod before they changed the subject. Watching and talking about the Cubs has long been something I’ve shared with my family, and it’s nice to have them relevant again so we can all share in the excitement.
* Gleyber Torres, you are ridiculous. The 18-year-old shortstop went 4-for-5 with a double, RBI and run scored yesterday for the South Bend Cubs. He’s now hitting .352/.446/.423 on the year with 12 walks and seven stolen bases. Did I mention he’s only 18? This kid is going to be extremely fun to follow this year.
* With the length of games way down so far this year, MLB will be relaxing pace-of-play fines, writes Jayson Stark. So far, the average length of game is down more than seven minutes compared to the same point in 2014. Because the pace-of-play measures seem to be working, MLB will now likely simply send letters to violators, rather than issue fines just to issue fines. I will say — and I’m not sure if it’s just in my head — but from the games I have attended so far this year, the time between innings does seem shorter. I’m definitely not going to complain about that.